Lausanne, Switzerland, May 27, 2016 - Twelve teams will compete to qualify for the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix Group 1 Finals in Bangkok, Thailand from July 6 to 10. As the competition approaches, we feature Russia in the 11th of a 12-part series.
Russia on the rise
Russia have moved back to the top of the women's volleyball charts after successful performances in last year’s edition of the World Grand Prix and their qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. And the Russian team’s chances of winning titles this year are certainly strong.
Russia have won the World Grand Prix title three times, but it has been 14 years since they topped the competition's podium for the last time. They won silver in 2009, and also earned bronze in the 2014 edition. Last year, their solid performance earned silver, before the team went on to cap their season with gold at the EuroVolley.
Russia may have finished fifth in the preliminary round with a 5-4 win-loss record, but they raised their game in the Final Six in Omaha with a 3-2 win-loss card to finish second to the United States.
In the preliminary round, they recorded two consecutive wins over Germany and the Dominican Republic, but they were not able to sustain that momentum against China. The Asian side won 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-13, 25-23) in the first week. Russia opened the second week with a loss to the United States but won the next two matches against Serbia 3-2 (25-23, 25-17, 25-20, 26-24, 15-8) and Turkey 3-1 (26-24, 17-25, 25-23, 25-21). They only had a one victory in the third week against hosts Italy 3-1 (25-18, 20-25, 25-22, 30-28) in Catania.
Russia had two big straight-set victories over Italy 3-0 (26-24, 28-26, 26-19) and Brazil 3-0 (25-19, 28-26, 25-19) in the final round, however. After these big wins, they lost to USA and China, but they ended the competition on a positive note with a 3-0 (25-11, 25-19, 25-18) win over Japan.
Russia dominated the World Grand Prix in the late 1990s; after securing gold in 1997, they went on to win two more titles in 1999 and 2002.
Their previous achievements when they competed under the banner of the Soviet Union make them the most successful nation in the history of women’s volleyball as they have won Olympic gold medals at Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972, Moscow 1980 and Seoul 1988. On top of that, they have won seven World Championship titles, 18 European Championship titles, a World Cup title and a Grand Champions Cup title.
Player to watch – Nataliya Goncharova
Russia have a long list of tall and powerful players, including Elena Godina, Lioubov Sokolova, Evguenia Artamonova, Elizaveta Tishchenko and Ekaterina Gamova. These names have been synonymous with Russia’s success at the World Grand Prix and other tournaments in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
After these stars retired from the national team, expectations around a new generation of players was strong. Nataliya Goncharova’s performances and leadership have developed over the years. Now, she has completely stepped out of the shadows of her predecessors.
Goncharova brings guidance to her teammates and, as a result, the Russian squad has done well. She guided the team to an excellent performance in the final round of the World Grand Prix, boosting performances in succeeding competitions.
Goncharova was born in Scol and first played for her university Ivano-Frankivsk. She was a member of the national team that won the gold medal at the 2005 European Junior Championship and the bronze medal at the European Junior Championship. She became a world champion in 2010 and a two-time European champion in 2013 and 2015.
Goncharova has played for Russian club Dinamo Moscow since 2007. Among her achievements with her club are gold and five silver medals in the Russian Championship and a Russian Cup title. At a continental level, her club were finalists in 2011 and 2013 in the CEV Champions League.FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix