Zhu Ting is China’s guiding light

It may appear that Zhu Ting has plenty to contend with as she chases a second Olympic gold medal and MVP title at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, but that has not stopped the Chinese superstar from adding the task of obtaining a master’s degree in history after she enrolled in Beijing Normal University in September.

It is an appropriate subject for the 26-year-old to study considering she has spent the past decade establishing herself among the greats of volleyball history, someone that will be spoken about and studied for many years to come.

Zhu signalled her intentions when she returned to play in the Chinese Volleyball League in 2019 to continue an impressive run of success for club and country that featured another gold and MVP award when China won the Japan 2019 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Cup.

While the outside hitter enjoyed three seasons with Turkey’s VakifBank Istanbul that reaped a haul of two FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championships and two Champions League titles, the chance to play for Tianjin Bohai Bank meant she would be closer for training camps and to help the team integrate better before Tokyo 2020.

Such was the success of Zhu’s first season with Tianjin that she signed an extension after helping them to the Chinese title and herself to the MVP award.

“I spent a great season with Tianjin last year and I am very familiar with the team and the atmosphere, so I had no hesitation when I received the invitation to stay,” Zhu told the China Daily.

“For sure our main target is the Olympic Games,” she added. “I will try to improve myself through the league matches to make sure I can have better performance next year in Tokyo.”

Having made her China debut aged 18 in 2013, Zhu’s performances when China won gold at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games meant she became a global volleyball star and one of her country’s most popular athletes.

Her story of growing up as one of five daughters on her parent’s farm in Zhudalou, a small village in China’s central Henan Province captivated volleyball fans and her performances at the Japan 2018 FIVB Volleyball Woman’s World Championship and 2019 World Cup, where coach Lang Ping’s side won bronze and gold, increased her popularity further still.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic Zhu has been working hard behind closed doors along with the rest of the China team.

Recently she spent eight weeks on the side-lines while she recovered from an injury to her right wrist but is confident that it will not take her too long to return to her best.

“I will gradually get back my form through each game and work with Daniel (Wai Hong – Tianjin physiotherapist) to make plans,” Zhu said. “He can really help me achieve many impossible tasks, and I think I will be fine.”

Many of the team that triumphed at Rio 2016 are likely to back for the title defence.

Setter Ding Xia and blocker Yan Ni joined Zhu in the World Cup dream team, while Yuan Xinyue, Gong Xiangyu, Wei Qiuyue, Zhang Changning, Lui Xiaotong and Lin Li helped China triumph at the World Cup.

Zhu Ting (CHN) celebrates

A further seven of the squad triumphed at Japan 2019, which means that by the time Tokyo 2020 begins China captain Zhu will be leading a team that will be a powerful mix of youth and experience.

Victory at Tokyo 2020 would be China’s third Olympic title, having also previously won at Los Angeles 1984. If they do top the podium, they will be the fourth team – after Brazil, Cuba and the USSR – to win back-to-back Olympic titles.

“Everything is for the Olympics, no matter whether it is in a game or in training,” Zhu said. “We need to work on our weaknesses through this domestic league competition as well as the training sessions leading up to the Olympics.

“We hope that the Olympic Games will be held successfully because we have been fighting for this for four years. We are still training in a systematic and focused way and it has been a good chance for us to work on our own weaknesses.”

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