Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 21, 2016 – China coach Lang Ping added another Olympic gold medal to her long list of outstanding achievements, this time as coach of the Asian squad that beat Serbia in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games women’s final at Maracanazinho on Saturday.
Lang Ping won the gold medal as a player at Los Angeles 1984, then embarked on a coaching career to lead the women’s national team of China to silver at Atlanta 1996. She then moved to the United States and coached the national team to silver at Beijing 2008.
She returned to China to coach again the women’s team in 2013. This was also the time that she brought in new faces to their line-up, including Rio 2016 MVP Zhu Ting. She continued to introduce young players to their line-up to help seasoned players Hui Ruoqi and Xu Yunli.
China won the FIVB Volleyball World Cup in September 2015, which was their qualification pathway to Rio 2016, together with runners-up Serbia.
China indeed faced some setbacks after that, as they have not performed well in the final round of the World Grand Prix. They also did not have a leader like Hui Ruoqi, who can help motivate the younger players.
At the start of the Rio 2016 competition, China only posted two victories in their five matches that put them in fourth position in the preliminary round ranking. Fourth place was enough to get them through to the quarterfinals, where they faced Brazil.
China felt tremendous pressure, as they had to play an undefeated team that was also playing in their home court. China made an incredible finish in the five-set bout that left the entire crowd silent. The Chinese team made an unforgettable upset on the hosts, which started a positive run in the succeeding matches.
“The quarterfinal match was a very important match for us,” Lang said. “We did not know who was going to win that match. I still think that we are very lucky to be able to reach this stage.”
In their semifinal match with the Netherlands, China barely got through the end of each set, as the European side challenged them in every rally. They persevered and succeeded in four sets with another small margin to end the match.
China then faced Serbia, which also had the same momentum going into the gold medal match. The Serbians won the first set, but the Chinese bounced back in the next three sets to win gold. The final moments of the match were difficult as the Serbians fought hard to stay in the game, but China prevailed with a slim margin to reach the top podium.
Lang’s instructions from the sidelines kept her team focused the entire time. At the final whistle, Lang could not celebrate enthusiastically that much, as she had to go through difficult phases in the competition, including the most important match for the gold medal.
Lang’s achievement is unprecedented, as she became the first person to win the gold medal as a player and as a coach. As one of the four people that have won medals as a player and coach, Lang rose above them with her two gold medal achievements.
“The feeling of victory as a player and as a coach is different,” Lang said. “As a player you feel vindicated for all the training and hard work that you have done. As a coach you have that sense of responsibility to your team and you have to be happy for that big reward.”
Lang emphasised that she does not focus on gaining achievements for herself but her focus is on the team to achieve their gaols as a group.
“I have not really paid attention to these personal achievements – winning gold as a player and winning gold as a coach,” Lang said. “I love my job and I try to do my best. This is a team sport and I have to see each person in the team to work hard. I also have to make sure that they work hard as a group. The only thing I can say is that I am fortunate to have great people helping me with these achievements.”
Lang is regarded as a hero in her country, from her countless achievements as a player and now her gold medal victory as a coach. These feats, though, required a lot of hours in training and competition she had to endure for almost her entire life.
“All these years of coaching, I just feel lucky to have this opportunity to have led many other teams across the world,” Lang said. “I have achieved a lot as a player and as a coach, but I also had to sacrifice many things in my life.”
One of her biggest sacrifice is not being able to spend her time with her family.
“My biggest regret in life is that I was not able to spend time with my mother, especially when she was sick,” Lang said. “This is the big sacrifice I have to do, amidst all the success that I have achieved in this sport.”