NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 15 – Kenya national women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers will not be relegated to the 2017 FIVB world Grand Prix Group 3 despite finishing last in Group 2 this year.
Regardless of a poor show in their debut in a relatively competitive Group 2 this season, Malkia Strikers will still dine with some of the elite volleyball playing nations after the World Grand Prix Council allowed Africa two slots to the top female volleyball competition following the promotion of Cameroon.
Others promoted to a lower Group 3 are Trinidad & Tobago, Azerbaijan, Hungary.
The good news means that Kenya will have to work even harder than they’ve done in the last two years after they paired Korea, Group 3 silver and bronze medalists Kazakhstan and Peru and Croatia, this year’s Group 3 winners.
The changes came following an increase in the number of participating teams from 28 in 2015/16 to 32 next year. The World Grand Prix Council also confirmed that next year’s competition will feature record prize money of Ksh60 million ($600,000)
To maintain the standard of these games, World Grand Prix Council have tasked participating teams to retain at least eight players out of 14 who took from the last World Grand Prix and six players out of 12 from the last Olympic Games.
This will be tricky catch for Kenya Volleyball Federation which had shown signs of dropping former captain Braxcides Agala and setter Janet Wanja in favour of junior players as the federation looks onto building a squad for 2020 Olympics.
Teams will register 21 players six weeks before the beginning of the competition, bringing that list down to 18 players four weeks before the beginning of the competition and down to 14 players at two days before the start of play.
The World Grand Prix Council confirmed that the same format as the 2016 competition will remain. The 32 teams have been split into three groups (12 teams in Group 1 and Groups 2 and eight teams in Group 3) and will play the Preliminary Round in a pool format over three weeks, before the best teams (four for Groups 2 & 3 and six for Group 1) gather for the Finals in each Group.
The Group 2 Preliminary Round will take place from July 7-9, July 14-16 and July 21-23, and be followed by the Finals, featuring four teams, from July 28-30. August 2-6.
The Group 1 Preliminary Round dates are the same as for Group 2 – the Finals, featuring four teams, will take place from August 2-6 28-30. Finally, the Group 3 Preliminary Round will take place on July 7-9 and July 14-16, with Finals on July 21-23.
The top teams in each Group in 2016 are promoted for next year’s competition, while the bottom teams are relegated with Kenya in Group 2 being the exception. Germany move down from Group 1 to Group 2 in 2017 while the Dominican Republic will play in Group 1 while Croatia are promoted to Group 2.
Olympic champions China will take on silver medalists Serbia in the third week of the 2017 edition after the draw for next year’s competition was held at the World Grand Prix Council meeting in Lausanne on Wednesday.
The draw, which was overseen by FIVB President Dr. Ary S. Graça F and conducted by FIVB 1st Executive Vice President and World Grand Prix Council Secretary Cristobal Marte Hoffiz, sees Turkey host title-holders Brazil, Belgium and Serbia on the opening weekend of matches, while China will host USA, Russia and Italy in Pool B1 and the Netherlands will welcome the Dominican Republic, Japan and Thailand in Pool C1.
The second weekend from July 14-16 will also feature the most common encounter in World Grand Prix history when Japan host Brazil, alongside Thailand and Serbia. Brazil lead the head to head 35:4.
Meanwhile, a repeat of this year’s FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix final between Brazil and USA will take place in Week 3 on the weekend of July 21-23 in Brazil.
The venues in each country will be confirmed at a later date while the venues of the Finals will be confirmed in the coming weeks with China (Group 1), Czech Republic, Germany and Poland (Group 2) and Australia (Group 3) already having expressed interest.