Lausanne, Switzerland, September 9, 2015 - When China won the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Cup for the first time in twelve years on Sunday, the team danced for joy. The Chinese fans proudly waved their flags at a packed Nippongaishi Hall in Nagoya, Japan.
And they had every reason to do so. This was their first major international title since winning the Olympics in 2004. In defeating Japan 3-1 in the final, China not only secured their fourth triumph at the FIVB Women’s World Cup, but also claimed one of the first two places at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro - the second going to runners-up Serbia.
The players on court and countless Chinese volleyball fans knew they had coach “Jenny” Lang Ping to thank. In 1981 and 1985, she led China to the title at the FIVB Women’s World Grand Prix as a player. Since, she has earned herself a reputation as one of the world's top coaches.
“Jenny makes really good use of her players, every member of this team is very important to China’s victory,” said FIVB Honorary Life President Jizhong Wei. “She has built a united team with great fighting spirit.”
And she has done that wherever her coaching career has led her.
During her first spell in charge of the Chinese national team from 1995 to 1998, she guided China to silver at the Olympics in 1996 and at the World Championship in 1998.
In 2005, she did what for many years had been unthinkable: take over at the helm of the USA national team, which is also when she adopted the name “Jenny”. Because she knew just how sensitive the move was, she asked her Chinese fans on her website before committing. The majority were proud and backed her spectacular decision.
Her four years as the US coach came to a head at the 2008 Olympic Games in Lang’s birthplace, Beijing. Her USA team defeated hosts China in five sets on their way out of the group stage, and went on to claim silver after a final defeat to Brazil. She resigned after that event, but returned in 2013 as the coach of her native China. Lang made sweeping changes and has assembled a team packed with talented young players, one of whom was named MVP at the World Cup.
“When I took over I told everyone they had to understand world-level volleyball. I instructed them on how to play against that level and brought in new players,” said Lang. After all these changes and a second place at the 2014 World Championship in Italy, Lang has now finally claimed her first major international title as a coach – victory at the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Cup.
As usual, she was keen to deflect attention from herself after the success: “I want to congratulate the players. We won together - the coaches and staff. Gratitude is the key word. Everybody had to join together to make this happen. We had great support from the Sports Association in China which gave us a good foundation.”
And looking ahead: “We can still draw more out of this team.” This is precisely the attitude that coach Lang has instilled in her players, most of whom are still in the early stages of their careers. Success is only possible with unrivalled team spirit (MVP Zhu Ting: “As an ace, I have to do more when the team is in difficulty. I also have to help the other players.”) and hard work.
China’s captain Zeng Chuniei said: “There were ups and downs like a wave. It was a great experience for our young players. We will reflect on this victory.”
Yuan Xinyue added: “In the end we won, so I am happy. This will be a great encouragement to our young players. This game showed we still need to improve.”
China are bound to continue to improve under coach Lang. After all, the Olympic Games are just a year away. Lang won them as a player in 1984. In Rio, she is looking to guide her team to gold as a coach, and to make the volleyball-mad public in China as happy as they have been since the most recent success.