Published: 12:05, May 19, 2022 | Updated: 12:14, May 19, 2022
Reassembled Chinese women's volleyball team starts from VNL
By Xinhua

China's Yuan Xinyue spikes the ball in the women's preliminary round pool B volleyball match between China and Argentina during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Arena in Tokyo on Aug 2, 2021. (LUIS ROBAYO / AFP)

BEIJING - A reassembled Chinese national women's volleyball team intends to recover from a disappointing Tokyo 2020 Olympics through Volleyball Nations League without top star Zhu Ting.

It will be a challenge for new coach Cai Bin, who replaced legendary coach Lang Ping after Tokyo 2022, with the recently released roster missing spikers Zhu Ting and Zhang Changning, both citing injuries for the absence.

Cai, 56, was appointed as the head coach of the national women's team for the second time after he led China to the finals of the Asian Championships in 2009 when they lost to Thailand. This time his goal is higher as he is expected to lead the Rio 2016 Olympic champions to Paris 2024 with untested soldiers.

Starting in late May, VNL will be the first major international event after Cai took the reins and the first time for the Chinese women's team to show up at the international volleyball court after they failed in the preliminary round in Tokyo last year.

Our goal this time is the finals. We've got a lot of players who previously didn't have many opportunities to start in international games. But I wish they could prove their competitive spirit and try their best.

Cai Bin, new coach of Chinese national women's volleyball team

"Our goal this time is the finals," Cai said on Tuesday. "We've got a lot of players who previously didn't have many opportunities to start in international games. But I wish they could prove their competitive spirit and try their best."

Cai still has to rely on veteran players as most of his 24 players are either too young or lack international competition experience.

Two-time Olympians Yuan Xinyue has been appointed as the new captain, replacing Zhu. Core players also include Gong Xiangyu and Ding Xia, who both attended Rio 2016, as well as Li Yingying and Wang Yuanyuan, who have already been tested at Tokyo 2020.

"I told the players not to be afraid of anything and there's going to be no limit for them. We will strive for victory," said Cai Bin.

Cai confessed, however, that he doesn't have the luxury of giving many opportunities to the young players to get familiar with international matches.

"On the one hand, we need to provide chances to the inexperienced, but on the other hand, we have to get a good result (at VNL). I need to balance them," he added.

The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) changed the Olympic qualifying rules after Tokyo 2020 and VNL success will grant precious ranking points for the Paris 2024 quotas.

"If the outcome of VNL is not linked to the Olympic qualification, I will send more young players to the court," Cai said.

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The absence of Zhu and Zhang cuts the attacking power significantly of the Chinese team and the rotation of the bench is weakened. The deep bench was the key to winning at Rio 2016 and many international competitions for China but was interrupted during the Tokyo Olympics after Zhu was injured.

"We have some talents in the team, but they need time to grow," Cai said. "The VNL matches are going to be the chance for them to be mature, therefore the young players need to put up more efforts in the training camp to gear up their skills and forms."

With only two years left to the Paris Olympics, Cai counts on every stop of the VNL competitions to work out for his players.

"There are training between stops of VNL and we'll make the most use of them. I hope these girls seize the chance to strive," Cai said.