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CVL spikes in popularity

By Shi Futian | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-06 11:15
Tianjin players celebrate after beating Shanghai 3-2 in Game 7 of the 2018 China Volleyball League finals to earn their club its 11th CVL crown on Tuesday at Luwan Gymnasium in Shanghai. [Photo/Xinhua]

After years of living in the shadow of China's all-conquering women's national team, the country's professional volleyball league is finally enjoying the limelight.

On Tuesday, the curtain closed on the upgraded 2017-2018 China Volleyball League season, with the women's final between Tianjin and Shanghai racking up viewing figures that the dramatic action deserved.

Tens of millions of fans watched online as Tianjin claimed its 11th league title by clinching the deciding match of the seven-game finals to claim the 3 million yuan ($470,000) first prize in front of around 3,500 spectators at Luwan Gymnasium in Shanghai.

Tianjin's 18-year-old Li Yingying capped her stunning season with another scoring blitz in the final, racking up 43 points to easily surpass the 21 points of South Korean Shanghai rival Kim Yeon-Koung, 30.

Li totaled 206 points over the seven games and 804 throughout the season, making her the youngest player in CVL history to break the 800-point mark.

"This season just made me a more mature player with a better mentality," said Li.

Tianjin coach Chen Youquan hailed his team's performance, saying: "Both teams were strong and this was an amazing game.

"Although Shanghai had a great performance in terms of attack and defense, we handled the pressure and displayed our skills."

It was a fitting end to a season in which the CVL and its business operation partner iRENA, has launched headfirst into the future by rolling out an ambitious 70 million yuan ($11 million) reform plan designed to improve its product on every level.

"Our goal is to create the best volleyball league in the world and start a new era for the CVL," said Eric Gao, CEO of iRENA.

"We have seen a very successful season. We have made a lot of effort going into marketing and promoting the CVL and we are glad there have been a lot of improvements in various areas."

Gao said cultivating more superstars such as Team China captain Zhu Ting will be key to achieving that goal.

China's top spiker Zhu, the world's most expensive players who began her career in the CVL and is now playing in the Turkish league, has helped drawn global attention to the sport.

"China's women's volleyball team has enjoyed remarkable achievements on the international stage. For the league, we must improve the competitive level and popularize the sport to as many people as possible.

"It's also important that a top league has the ability to attract superstars as well as create future homegrown superstars."

Shanghai's South Korean star Kim, the MVP at the 2012 London Olympics, joined Shanghai this season and more international stars are expected to follow her to China in the near future.

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