Bendigo, Victoria, June 2, 2016 - The race for women’s volleyball Olympic qualification may be over for 2016, but for the four international teams gathered in Bendigo, Australia, for the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix 2016 this weekend the Olympics is very much on their mind.
All four Pool B3 teams – Australia, Cuba, Croatia and Colombia – have brought young and inexperienced teams to Victoria for this weekend’s competition, as they look ahead to Tokyo 2020.
“This moment it is not such a strong team, because it is a very young team,” Cuban coach Roberto Garcia said. “I think by the next Olympics we will have a very good team.”
Croatian coach Miroslav Aksentijevic said his focus turned to Tokyo 2020 as soon as his team missed qualification for Rio.
“We started after qualification for Ankara, we decided to include more young players,” Aksentijevic said. “We have come here with a young team, a lot of the players playing for the first time in the national team.”
Colombian coach Eduardo Guillaume is still getting over the disappointment of his team falling at the final hurdle in the race to Rio.
The Group 3 Final Standing from the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix 2015
“Nobody is happy,” he said. “We didn’t play well; I think we felt a lot of the pressure.
“This weekend we have two players who didn’t play last year. I think this year is a weekend of uncertainty, and anything can happen because the teams don’t know each other.”
Hosts Australia have a new coach as well as several new players.
Shannon Winzer is one of just a handful of women coaching senior international teams in the world, and she’s excited about the task ahead.
“It’s definitely a work in progress,” she said.
“I want us to get better every single time we train, every time we play. And if we can do that, I think we’ll be ready for these teams.
“I know how good this team can be, I know how good these players can be, and I have absolutely no doubt about their ability to deliver it. We just have to find a way to get them to do it consistently.”
Cuba will take on Croatia in the opening game of the Australian weekend, with the host nation playing Colombia on Friday night.