Volleyball Legend Leads China Forward

September 25, 2018
Editor: Xie Wen
Lang Ping [Xinhua]

 

Owing to her central role in the success of the Chinese women's volleyball team in the 80s and beyond, Lang Ping has earned her status of national icon and is widely held  as one of the most respected people in modern Chinese sports.

When she was active as a player, Lang was hailed as China's "iron hammer" for her leading role in her team that won the gold medal at the second Asian Women's Volleyball Championship in Hong Kong in 1979.

She achieved the legendary feat of winning five consecutive championships as a player and training Chinese women's volleyball team into the word’s first-class team  as a coach, and she is an epoch-making heroine, according to China Volleyball Magazine.

After years of high training workload, Lang constantly suffers from unhealed injuries sustained in the past, despite treatment and many operations.

Now, she still remains on the forefront of Chinese volleyball as a coach, strongly aware that she is the last woman player of her generation to still serve the nation in the field and should leave behind a legacy for Chinese volleyball. She was born for volleyball. Moreover, it’s not just a matter of winning of a champion or a gold medal, she is meant for carrying forward the spirit of Chinese athletes, bearing high national expectations.

In order to improve the overall training performance of the team, she made some bold decisions and encouraged new faces in international games.

Her leadership brought Chinese volleyball the crown of runners-up at the World Championships, gold at the World Cup, and first place at the Olympics, breaking the spell of China's medal drought at three major world competitions which lasted 10 years.

When Lang decided to come out of retirement in 2013, the Chinese women's volleyball team was in chaos and at low morale after frequent coach replacements.

Thus, some people advised her not to take the risk. But Lang put all these concerns and worries aside and stepped forward to strive for more honors for the team.

That occasion was not, however, the first time Lang was entrusted with a mission at a critical moment. At the beginning of 1995, when her daughter was only four, Lang returned to China at the insistence of Yuan Weimin, president of China Volleyball Association at that time.

Yuan had discovered Lang in 1977 and later cultivated her to be an international competitor.

In one and a half years, she led the Chinese women's volleyball team to the podium as runners-up at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and was named as FIVB Coach of the Year.

She eventually led the Chinese women's volleyball team to win five consecutive championships from 1981-1986.

After retiring, it is common practice for senior women athletes to step into official careers in China. Lang decided to study abroad, instead.

In order to pay for her tuition, she once went to Italy to play professionally, and later returned to the U.S. to continue to study for her Master's degree in sports management.

Lang wrote in her autobiography that the first four years of coaching the Chinese national team was regarded as the mature period of her life, which tempered her true spirit and confidence.

However, the work intensity was far beyond her imagination and consumed her physically. Her husband Bai Fan gradually drifted away from her. In 1999, Lang resigned.

In the international volleyball world, there are only a few female coaches. Lang was among the very few. In Italy, she took back the Italian league championship trophy that the city of Modena had been looking forward to for 27 years, and led the team to the throne of the European League one year later.

Moreover, she led the young U.S. team to become the runners-up at the next Olympic Games. In 2009, she returned to China to coach Guangdong Evergrande women's volleyball team which were later to win the league title.

When the Chinese team was eliminated by Japan in the quarter-finals at the London 2012 Olympics, Lang, who was a commentator then, felt devastated and realized that maximum integration of quality resources was the key to achieving major wins.

Lang has always been fighting in her volleyball career with passion. She was determined to help the Chinese team thrive again, but she knew that they would not win by spirit alone, since professional skills and scientific management make the cornerstone of any results.

Given the freedom to choose talents and the privilege to build the coaching team, Lang has enjoyed the special treatment beyond domestic standards, which has helped her to lead the national team on the winning path.

During the competition in Rio in 2016, under the instruction of Lang, ace spiker Zhu Ting helped defeat the Serbian team with a powerful hit in the fourth round of the final, and helped the Chinese team achieve their first Olympic gold after 12 years.

After improving her physical fitness, Lang personally instructed Zhu and polished her with technical details.

In this way, new players with potential but with no basic skills have been cultivated to be professional athletes, and gradually shone at international competitions.

In addition, Lang has acquired all sorts of resources to build a composite support team with the help of experts and analysts of the physical and rehabilitation divisions abroad to set up data statistics and individualize the training and rehabilitation plan for each member on the team. Lang has not only cultivated talented players, but also promoted the reform of concept and mechanism of Chinese volleyball.

To these young players, Lang is both a strict teacher and kind-hearted mother-figure.. She often tries to adopt an understanding and tolerant attitude to their ideas and has formed a harmonious relationship with them.

Under Lang's guidance, the women players have honed their techniques, and fostered further understanding of volleyball and the necessary attitude, which has surpurred them to be more confident.

Though she has been surrounded by fame and honor, Lang has never stopped exploring new talents and being concerned with some other issues such as the flow of professional players, the commercial operation of the league, and the mass base of volleyball.

In spite of her approaching 60 years of age, Lang is still leading Chinese women's volleyball team on the way to victories. She will always be remembered as one of the first Chinese world champions.

(Source: People.cn/ Translated and edited by Women of China)

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