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Performance spike: Gamova & co. among favorites for London volleyball gold

There is plenty of pressure on the Russian women's volleyball team at the London Olympics as Sergey Ovchinnikov's side are faced with the challenge of bringing home their first gold since 1988.
­The women of the Soviet Union were well used to dominating competition at the net, winning four Olympic gold medals from 1968 to 1988. But they've been deprived of the best spot on the podium since then unable to rise above second place in 1992, 2000 and 2004.The team finished outside the top four in the ensuing 2008 Games in Beijing.This year, Russia is fielding one of the veteran teams at the games, with an average age of 28. Six players on the squad also participated in either Greece or in China.The team are also amongst the most physically imposing, with seven players measuring taller than 190 centimeters.Cuba is sure to be amongst Russia's main rivals. The island country took the baton from the Soviet Union by winning it all in Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney.Two-time gold medalists China and the star-studded 2008 winners Brazil could also prove troublesome for the Russians.But the likes of 31-year-old Ekaterina Gamova will be banking on their big-game experience when they arrive in London:“We're two-time World Champions, so we've played in big Olympic matches before,” she said. “I participated in the finals twice before we had a sub-par outing in Beijing. So I think this is the perfect chance for us to win it all this year.”A few other Russian players have been there and done that which could serve as a game-breaker in their opening preliminary round match against Great Britain.The hosts, along with Turkey, will be making their Olympic debut in that July 29 clash.The squad of seasoned veterans is primed to bring Russia back to its former glory as they seek the country's first gold in 24 years.