Lausanne, Switzerland, November 10, 2017 – Volleyball legend Jenny Lang Ping is a true testament that talent and hard work were her keys to success as athlete and as coach.
The lady known as the “Iron Hammer” led China to a string of successes in the 1980s, including gold in the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Cup in 1981 and 1985, the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship in 1982 and the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, where she was also named MVP.
Her coaching career has been just as successful, as she led USA to a silver medal finish in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and China to a gold medal triumph at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, making her the first person to have won Olympic volleyball gold as player and coach.
In an exclusive interview with fivb.com, Lang Ping shared her journey as a player to a champion coach.
How did you start out in volleyball?
Lang Ping: When I was in middle school and my older sister was a member of our school’s basketball team. At that time, I also wanted to play basketball on my sister’s team. However, the coach did not accept me and recommended that I play volleyball.
Was it love at first sight between you and the sport?
Lang Ping: My first love was basketball and high jump, but as soon as I started playing volleyball and realized it is a team sport, it became amazing and interesting for me.
Did you play it with your family? Is volleyball an ideal family sport?
Lang Ping: I am not the only member of my family playing volleyball. Volleyball is a game that a whole family should be able to play, as it is ideal and a team sport.
What was more important in your career as a player – talent or hard work? Who was the most influential person in your career?
Lang Ping: Talent and hard work are equally important when it comes to being successful as a player. Mr Yuan Weimin, my first coach in the national team, played the biggest role in my volleyball career. Mr. Yuan meticulously guided me and introduced me to new, higher level of volleyball.
What was the best or most emotional moment in your career?
Lang Ping: Our first World Cup title in 1981, being crowned as world champions (in 1982) and winning the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic were the most emotional moments for me as a player.
How has the game of volleyball changed since you started your career?
Lang Ping: It has become faster and more powerful.
What will volleyball be like in the future? How are you trying to adapt your Chinese team to keep up with these developments?
Lang Ping: Women’s volleyball will be more like men’s volleyball. It will be more comprehensive in both attack and defence, and even faster. The Chinese women’s team will continue to play volleyball with the technical and physical attributes typical of Chinese teams, and at the same time, incorporating some of the European and American styles of play.
What is more difficult – playing or coaching?
Lang Ping: As a player, all you have to think about is producing your best performance on the court; but as a coach you have to consider the players, training, competition and even elements off the court that may help or harm the team.
What did you learn during your time as coach of the USA team?
Lang Ping: As coach of the USA team, I got to know the American volleyball culture and the way the Americans think about the sport. The volleyball culture is quite different in China. In China, all the players and team staff live together during the national break. We always do things together like the Japanese team. In the USA, however, the players live separately and only come together for practice and the competition. The US players come from universities, while the Chinese players come from local, provincial volleyball clubs.
Was the Olympic gold medal in Rio 2016 the biggest moment of your sporting career?
Lang Ping: Winning the Olympic gold medal in Rio was obviously one of my biggest moments. However, I also won Olympic gold as a player in Los Angeles in 1984. That was my first Olympic gold medal and was also one of the biggest moments of my volleyball career.
What are your insights about the Volleyball Nations League?
Lang Ping: It is a new tournament, so I believe it will be a total success and will allow more volleyball fans to enjoy high-quality matches around the world.
How long do you plan to continue coaching?
Lang Ping: At the moment, I am not sure how long I plan to be a coach. If my physical condition allows it, I would like to continue coaching. I really enjoy being a volleyball coach.
What ideas do you have to improve volleyball?
Innovation and trying to balance out the offensive and defensive aspects of volleyball. That way we can offer the audience an attractive volleyball experience, and the full stadiums will also motivate the players to take their volleyball to a new level.
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