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There are plenty of big stars competing in Italy’s Lega Pallavolo Serie A1 Femminile, but this season Rio 2016 Olympic champion and MVP Zhu Ting is certainly one of the biggest. In her very first season in Italy, the 28-year-old Chinese standout is already making a difference. Led by the 1.98m-tall outside hitter, her team Savino Del Bene Scandicci have now climbed to the second place in the current standings, awaiting their next big challenge in the league, an away game at Volley Bergamo 1991 on Sunday, December 18, at 17:00 local time (16:00 UTC).

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Having recovered from surgery on her wrist that kept her out of the entire 2021-2022 season, Zhu joined her new club and debuted on the court as a substitute player in a fourth-leg home fixture against Trasporti Pesanti Casalmaggiore. She contributed six points towards a straight-set victory, including the match winner, a great bounce-back from the defeat at the hands of Igor Gorgonzola Novara in their previous game.

In Scandicci’s next game, Zhu was among the starters for the first time and delivered the match high of 16 points towards a 3-1 win at Wash4Green Pinerolo. Since the Chinese outside started playing for the team in early November, Savino Del Bene have lost only two of their eight A1 matches, both after tight five-set battles, and have gradually made it up to the second place in the table, on 26 points and an 8-3 win-loss record.

Defending champions Prosecco Doc Imoco Conegliano are the only team still above Scandicci in the standings, but Scandicci are the only team to have beaten Imoco so far this season. And what a win it was! On December 4, Savino Del Bene swept their hosts in straight sets, as Zhu led the way with her best performance for the team yet. All for the first time as a Scandicci player, she reached the 20+ point mark in scoring, hammered an average of seven points per set, scored three kill blocks, scored directly from the serving line, and was above 50% in perfect receptions.

Zhu Ting was 13 years old when she was selected to join the Henan Province sports school team in 2008 and started her competitive volleyball career. A couple of years later, she started her journey through the Chinese youth and junior national teams. Soon she collected her first international medal, a 2011 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship silver, and her first international trophies, at the 2012 Junior Asian Championship and at the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U20 World Championship, which both also came with MVP awards.

Zhu made the Dream Team of her first competition with the senior national team when China claimed silver at the 2013 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix. In 2014, she powered her country to an FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship silver. In 2015, China won the trophy at the FIVB Volleyball World Cup, and in 2016, they triumphed at the Rio Olympics. Zhu was always among the individual awardees, but most significantly she received the highest honour of Most Valuable Player at Rio 2016. Before 2021, when she last appeared in the national team colours, Zhu captained China to a 2017 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup gold (MVP), a 2018 World Championship bronze, a 2018 Asian Games trophy, a 2019 World Cup crown (MVP), and two Volleyball Nations League bronze medals.

Zhu Ting at VNL 2021

The Chinese star picked up her first international medal at the club level as a Guangdong Evergrande player, when they finished third at the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship and Zhu was the best scorer of the tournament. Her club career peaked after the Rio Olympics, when she was transferred to VakifBank Istanbul. With the Turkish powerhouse, she earned two MVP nominations, two titles and a bronze at the Club World Championships, in addition to one MVP award, two titles and a bronze in the CEV Champions League and several national trophies and medals. Returning to China to compete for Tianjin Bohai Bank for a couple of seasons, she added another two national championship crowns to her impressive showcase, before venturing into the Italian league for the first time this fall.

“This year we have a very high-level roster, to which one of the best players in the world, Zhu Ting, has been added,” said Savino Del Bene Scandicci’s coach Massimo Barbolini, when the Chinese athlete joined the club. “There are great expectations and great curiosity to find out what we will be able to achieve.”

“I'm here in Italy to prove myself,” said Zhu. “I chose to change teams in order to grow and I'm here to do my best.”

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Zhu spikes above the Imoco block