Tokyo, Japan, May 13, 2016 - The eight coaches who will spend the next week trying to get their women’s volleyball teams qualified for the Rio Olympics have spent their final pre-event news conference explaining their selection decisions.
With each team only allowed 14 players for the qualifiers in Tokyo, each coach has had to make tough decisions on the eve of one of the toughest weeks of their coaching careers.
“We have to make such difficult decisions all the time, and I have had to make these decisions before,” said Italian coach Marco Bonitta, who announced on Friday that star player Valentina Diouf would be left off the final list.
“But from now on I just want to focus on the players who are on the team.”
Japanese coach Manabe Masayoshi also had to answer tough questions about his final squad, after trimming the numbers from 18 down to 14.
Thai coach Radchatagriengkai Kiattipong was asked about his selection of the youngest player at the tournament, 16.9 years old Chatchu-On Moksri. Thailand is hoping to qualify for its first Olympics.
“I saw her two years ago, and I wanted to get her into the squad to give her some experience,” he said.
“Everybody in Thailand is hoping we will go to Rio. Since four years ago we have trained hard for this round.”
Coaches were also asked to nominate who their most important players are, and while most refused to be drawn, some could not deny the obvious.
“Of course Kim Yeon-Koung is a key player,” Korean coach Jung-Chul Lee said of his captain, who was named the MVP at the last Olympic Games.
“But for her to play well, other players have to play their roles for Kim Yeon-Koung to succeed.”
Dutch coach Giovanni Guidetti refused to accept his team is one of the favourites for this week’s event.
“We are currently 15th in the world and we are a young team,” Guidetti said.
“Yes we did well last year, but we know that the level here is very tough. I think we will all start on equal terms.”
Kazakhstan is the lowest ranked team in Japan at 26th, and coach Shapran Vyacheslav knows this week will be a challenge.
“Since Beijing we have not made it to the Olympics,” Vyacheslav said.
“We have a completely new team since Beijing. Not one of the players in this team played in 2008, so everybody has a chance.”
Peru is also looking to return to the top of world volleyball.
“We have not been in our best form in recent years,” coach Mauro Marasciulo said.
“We have a very young team and are making progress. This will be a chance to bring us back to the centre of volleyball, so that makes this competition very important.”
Dominican Republic coach Marcos Kweik was asked if his team could surprise, like they did in London four years ago when they finished fifth.
“The Dominican team is a team of surprises,” Kweik said.
“We surprised in London and also at the 2014 World Championships. We have practiced hard, and we will lead the team to Rio like we did for London.”
The Olympic qualifiers begins in Tokyo on Saturday, with Italy taking on Korea in the opening match.
The four top placed teams, including at least one from Asia, will earn their tickets to Rio.
World Olympic Qualification Tournament websites:Women's WOQT in JapanMen's WOQT in JapanWomen's WOQT in Puerto RicoMen's WOQT in Mexico