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Three Olympic qualifiers and Thailand face off in Kyoto

 
Kyoto, Japan, June 23, 2016 – Japan will host Russia, Serbia and Thailand in the third round of the FIVB World Grand Prix at Shimazu Arena in Kyoto from Friday to Sunday. 

Serbia and Russia, two teams who will be heading for the Olympic Games in Rio this summer, will start the tournament on Friday, followed by Japan against Thailand. Sunday’s final match will see Japan, who will also be going to the Olympics, take on Russia. 

Neither Russia or Japan are at full strength for this round of the World Grand Prix. 

Japan will be captained by veteran Mai Yamaguchi, who will be 33 at the beginning of July, with previous captains Erika Araki and Saori Kimura both absent. But the hosts still have plenty of firepower in Yukiko Ebata, Saori Sakoda and 20-year-old Sarina Koga. 

Russia will have the experience of Nataliya Goncharova, Tatiana Kosheleva and captain Ekaterina Kosianenko to support their less-experienced teammates, while Serbia have a strong squad with players such as Jovana Brakocevic, Milena Rasic, Jelena Nikolic and captain Maja Ognjenovic.

Thailand, meanwhile, will be without their regular head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai who has had club and family commitments. Danai Sriwacharamaytakul takes over the role for this week and the Thai team will have Wilavan Apinyapong back as captain. Super setter Nootsara Tomkom is also in the lineup.

On Thursday, the coaches attended a press conference at the venue.

Serbia coach Zoran Terzic: This tournament will be very interesting for us because we will be playing with two teams – Russia and Japan – who have already qualified for the Olympics, and also Thailand. Russia are the European champions, while every time we play against Japan it’s a difficult and interesting match, many times with a 3-2 score. Every time we play Thailand it’s always interesting and not easy to win, so I think it will be the same this time. For us, it’s important to play these games against strong opponents because we need to see what kind of situation we are in at the moment. We definitely need to improve in some elements and we will have a better picture of our team after this tournament.

Russia coach Yury Marichev: For us, this World Grand Prix is a meaningful tournament because it’s so close to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. We only have two players with experience of the London Olympics in 2012 so this tournament means other players will have a chance and we can make good preparations.

Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe: We are happy to be able to play the third round of the World Grand Prix here in Kyoto as we have few chances to play in Kyoto with the women’s national team, so I’m looking forward to playing here tomorrow. For the Japan team it’s an important moment before the Olympics and we want to do our best with our younger players.

(Re. Sarina Koga): In the Olympic Qualification Tournament, Sarina’s performance wasn’t as good as usual but now she’s improving, but sometimes it’s hard to tell as the opponents keep changing. I want her to play well and show me something to give her a chance to go to the Olympics.

Thailand coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul: This Kyoto round is very, very important for us because all the teams here will be going to the Olympic Games this summer. So I think it will be an interesting round here in Kyoto and we’ll do our best. 

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