The World Championships preparation period has just finished an interesting period. Not interesting in the sense that a lot of things have been happening, but interesting in the sense that almost nothing has been happening. Virtually all teams have been locked up at home, I guess, going through an intensive training phase, with all some individual wrinkles. Germany for example are in camp pushing through three hour combined weights/court sessions in the morning and 2.5 hour court sessions in the evening. In contrast, the French team has just gone on a weeks holiday, although some players who didn’t play much in World League (Antiga, Samica) are still in camp doing a conditioning program.
The exceptions to the ‘non activity’ rule have been Australia, Czech Republic and the teams involved in the World League qualification series. Australia’s first round opponents Puerto Rico have continued their successful summer (they won the Central American Cup a month ago) by beating Portugal twice to advance to a playoff against China. Their star opposite Hector Soto led the team in scoring and is in ominous shape a month away from the World Champs opener. The other qualification series pitted Japan against Tunisia for the right to play against Korea for a place in World League. Japan won both matches easily and will thus ensure that there is at least one Asian team in next year’s World League. With a qualification process now in place, and Asian team consistently finishing last in their pools, it will be interesting to see just how long there continues to be an Asian presence in volleyball’s most premier annual event.
While most teams been at home, Australia has been in Europe, wandering through Czech Republic and Poland, and will soon head to Argentina. Czech Republic, as well as playing Australia have been in Poland, playing and defeating the Polish B team. The first salvos in among the big teams occurred last night in Gdansk, Poland. In front of all the local dignitaries (including Lech Walesa), Poland defeated Brazil 3-2 (20-18 in the fifth). Despite playing with two players who had already played twice this week with the B team (against Australia and Czech Republic), Poland raced to a 2-0 lead (25-21, 25-18), got pumped in the next two (14-25, 17-25) and then fell over the line to win it. Perhaps Poland is now favourite for the big title. Just joking. The teams will go at it again (along with Czech Republic and Bulgaria) in a tournament starting on Friday.
Now the countdown begins in earnest.
Good comment Mark, it appears that we are making the same mistakes as in the past. We have the worlds best sport complex but do not use it to is potential. The team are dragged from pillar to post and wear down. Their physical condition is questionable after such a hard tour with all the travel, hotels, strange food and missed opportunities (too much time in planes and transit lounges. Hopefully they do well in Italy, if not a change is needed, strategy and or management.
While I found it an interesting observation, in fairness the competition schedule is not a straightforward process and vritually noone gets exactly the program they want. Most of the other teams competing at World Champs were locked into a 6-8 World League season that is obviously not an option for Australia. With the travel demands, during WL it’s not possible to train. It is therefore logical that afterwards teams would take a break from travel to train before playing matches again. In the absence of World League I really don’t know what competition schedule the top teams would choose.
There is no doubt that the AIS has facilities that are the benchmark that other countries just wish they could replicate. There is just one problem, it is in Australia. Why would teams come here and prepare, its a long way to go, its expensive, there are no other teams within an 8 or 9 hour flight that are worth playing. We are on a time zone that is completely out of wack with Europe would also be another consideration. The beauty of what we have in Australia just does not hold up in the pragmatic world of international sport and bang for buck.