With the league finishing yesterday, it's time to look forwards towards 2021. The main event is the Olympics this year and the question is who will go to Tokyo to defend our gold medal.
My suggestions/predictions: (bold being gold medalists from Rio, and likely starters)
OH: Zhu Ting, Zhang Changning, Li Yingying, and Xu Ruoya
MB: Yuan Xinyue, Yan Ni, Wang Yuanyuan
OPP: Gong Xiangyu, Liu Yanhan
S: Ding Xia, Diao Linyu
L: Wang Mengjie
Jiangsu's performance in the finals really impressed me, and I think that Diao and Xu all deserve their spot in the NT training, and given the way their performance went, should go to Tokyo. Wang Yizhu was terrible against top teams so Liu Yanhan should go, and Wang Yuanyuan is the clear 3rd MB in the country now.
Compared with last cycle, I think our roster has improved overall. The six Olympians who will start have obviously improved their reception (Zhu) attacking (Zhang and Gong) blocking (Yuan) and stability in setting (Ding). Only concern is Yan Ni's age, but IMO she has the same consistent form as she did in 2016, 18, and 19 where she picked up two best middles. With the Olympic matches being played every other day, physical condition isn't as big of an issue.
For our subs, Li and Xu are clearly better than Liu and Hui in both attack and defence, but it will be unfortunate to miss LIu's topspin serve (but then, we learned that Zhu Ting didn't forget her topspin serve, which she has only previously tried in one of Vakifbank - Eczasibasi games in the Turkish League). Wang compared to Xu Yunli is a bit inexperienced, but is healthier and serves better. Liu would be better than Yang Fangxu for sure, since the latter got injured after the 2nd match with Italy. And it would be good to have a backup setter who can actually run (nothing against Wei, really liked her as a setter but she had knee problems). I'm not so sure about the Libero position though. Lin Li was very stable throughout Rio and it's unclear if Wang Mengjie is up to the task, although she was the main libero for 2015 WC, 2018 WCh, and 2019 WC and did satisfactory. Apparently this is definitely Lang Ping's swansong, and she won't be coaching for the 2022 WCh. However, I am guessing that she will still play a role, since these starters are once in a generation in terms of both talent and physicality and I can't imagine she doesn't have secret desires to win the only major title she didn't win as a coach and also end China's 36 years of no gold medal at the WCh.
Something tells me if we have to make major substitutions, we are not very likely to win much. The starting players are so much stronger compared to their substitutes.
The other question is who do we send to VNL if it runs. The focus should be developing players for the 2024 Paris games. Off the top of my head:
OH: Li Yingying, Wu Mengjie, Chen Boya, Li Yao (if she ever learns reception)
MB: Wang Yuanyuan, Gao Yi, Zhang Qian, Yang Hanyu, Zhang Yu, Guo Huizhen, Mao Junyi
S: Mei Xiaohan, Sun Haiping, Yu Jiarui
OP: Du Qingqing, Wang Yizhu, Chen Peiyan
L: Ni Feifan (don't need a second one with the way she's been playing, IMO she's already ready for Olympics but Wang Mengjie has the experience and conventionally only one is brought. If two liberos are taken to Tokyo, then Xu Ruoya stays home but either way Ni Feifan will have to play VNL)
With these players being born in the 96-02 range, they will be 22-28 during the games, for peak physical condition. As is usual for Chinese women's NTs, OH and OP are interchangable.