Lang Ping eyes new high of China volleyball

Source: Xinhua| 2017-03-31 23:59:21|Editor: yan
Video PlayerClose

By Sportswriters Xue Yanwen and Yao Youming

CHANGCHUN, China, March 31 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese saying "to retire after huge success" is not yet true with the country's volleyball icon Lang Ping, who directed the Chinese women's volleyball team to Olympic top podium at Rio 2016 and was just promoted to chief coach of the team.

The appointment by the Chinese volleyball association came on Wednesday as injury-plagued Lang was still recovering after a surgery, ending six months' speculation whether she would stay after her contract expired.

The chief coach is a new position designed for Lang, said an official statement of the Chinese volleyball association. She will focus on making plans for the team which aims to repeat its past glory in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.


Lang is the only person to win Olympic golds as a player and a coach, and is widely considered the best choice for Chinese women's volleyball to a new high.

As a veteran ace spiker, Lang has already been a national heroine since she helped China snatch five consecutive world titles from 1981 to 1986 and is dubbed the "Iron Hammer."

Three decades later, she, as head coach, rekindled the national pride by claiming the Olympic women's volleyball title in Rio 2016, 12 years after China last won the gold in Athens 2004.

Women's volleyball is the only sport that made into Chinese President Xi Jinping's New Year speech when he mentioned the progress in many aspects China achieved in the "extraordinary and unforgettable year" of 2016.

But behind Lang's "spirit of women's volleyball" are injuries brought by intensive training in her athlete career. She has experienced more than 10 surgeries, and was suffering from severe damage in her right hip joint last year.

Her health became the major variate of whether she would carry on coaching the national team. The 57-year-old had said that before deciding, her priority was to have her hip joint fixed.

Considering of Lang's condition, the main task of Lang is to steer the team in general, said Li Quanqiang, head of China's volleyball administration.

To reduce the burden on Lang, An Jiajie, her assistant coach at the Rio Olympics, was named as executive coach, also a new position designed for routine coaching work, said the statement of the Chinese volleyball association.

Lai Yawen, former captain of the Chinese team at Atlanta 1996 and the team leader at Rio 2016, continues to be the team leader, according to the association.

The famous coaching troika for the Chinese women's volleyball will continue working together until Tokyo 2020.

"As chief coach, I will focus on team navigation and fostering young coaches," Lang said.

Lang, who just underwent a surgery in January, added that "with active rehabilitative training, I hope to recover completely as soon as possible."


Apart from the appointment of Lang, the Chinese volleyball association also announced a notably younger squad. Among the 25 volleyballers, nine enter the national team for the first time, indicating the nation's determination to nurture more rising stars.

Lang is known for her boldness to use new faces and a balanced combination of experienced players and green hands.

"How many people knew about Zhu Ting when I put her into the squad four years ago?" said Lang.

"Zhu has the gift, but was not strong enough at that time. I myself was not strong enough when I was young," she said. "But if you don't try them, you will never know. Maybe we can surprise everyone."

Thanks to Lang, Zhu grew quickly into a versatile spiker. The 22-year-old was named the Most Valuable Player in the 2015 FIVB World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics, and is playing at Vakifbank volleyball team at Turkish Women Volleyball League.

Lang said that as some veterans fade out, she is looking for new players and the whole team will start a new journey from square one.

Yang Hanyu, 18-year-old blocker, set the record for being the youngest player of the Chinese national women's volleyball team.

Yang feels very lucky to make into the national team at such an age.

"I'm like a piece of paper in the national team. I will grasp the opportunity to study everything from the beginning," she added.

Committing to China for four more years, Lang said she is ready to start over again.

"There's a saying that goes among the sportsmen, one should start from scratch the moment he or she steps off the podium," Lang said. "It's seven months ago since China won the gold medal in Rio. The world title has already been the past. We must prepare ourselves for all the challenges in Tokyo."

KEY WORDS: Lang Ping