Lang Ping reiterates intention to quit after Tokyo 2020

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Lang Ping (C), head coach of China, gives instructions to players during the women's volleyball preliminary round match between China and Italy at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, on July 31, 2021. (Xinhua/Ding Ting)

Chinese women's volleyball team's head coach Jenny Lang Ping noted again she would probably quit from the post after Tokyo 2020 when she for the first time revealed details about captain Zhu Ting's wrist injury in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

The reigning Olympic champions concluded their Tokyo 2020 campaign with two wins and three defeats, failing to make it into the quarterfinals, their worst Olympic record since making debut in 1984.

Knowing this awkward result prior their match against group leaders Italy, Lang's team bounced back from three-straight losses to win their last two games.

But the result was "too late," Lang Ping sighed.

Lang apologized to the Chinese audience and reveled her willingness to quit on July 31 when the Chinese team salvaged their reputation with a 3-0 win over Italy.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua after her team's victory against Argentina in the final pool match, she reiterated this intention.

"I've almost fulfilled all my dreams in volleyball," said Lang.

"I don't think I can ask for more and it's also not feasible to pursue more given the reality of my age," she continued with a look of relief.

Since 2013, the 60-year-old legendary coach has led China to win the Rio Olympics gold, two World Cup championships, one World Championships silver and one bronze.

"I had a lot of happiness over the years, although I am not satisfied this time, but regret is also part of life and a kind of experience that we have to face."

Lang underlined her enthusiasm for volleyball, but said it is not possible for her to coach the Chinese team forever.

"For so many years I couldn't spend some quality time with my family, I want make it up and enjoy the happiness from my family. Otherwise, it will be too late," she said.

Although the official announcement about Lang's coaching career has not been disclosed yet, her team were clearly aware of the fact as they bowed and hugged Lang one by one with teary eyes at the end of their Tokyo finale.

Lang, one of the most famous Chinese volleyball players in the 1980s known for her fierce spikes, came back as head coach of the Chinese team again in 2013. The first time she took the post was in 1995.

"Relatively, we are not a strong side back to 2013, but through those years, through ups and downs, I've seen the growth of my players," said Lang, noting the once rookies but now pillars of the Chinese team, such as Zhu Ting, Yuan Xinyue and Zhang Changning, are all world-class players.

"Since then, every bit of our efforts has been rewarded -- We've been crowned in almost all of the important events, except the World Championships.

"Only this time (Tokyo Games), our efforts have gone unrewarded. It's not usual," she stressed, adding that she is still trying to figure out the reasons for their flop in Tokyo.

Lang also shared with Xinhua the details about Zhu Ting's injury, a top concern of volleyball fans.

Zhu, the MVP in the Rio Olympics, was considered the trump card in Lang's tactics system. But due to a wrist injury, Zhu failed to live up expectations and she even didn't show up in the lineups for the last two games.

"A timebomb," is how Lang described Zhu Ting's injury.

According to Lang, Zhu was injured long ago. After the postponement of the Tokyo Games was announced, the team consulted doctors whether Zhu had time for a wrist surgery, and the doctors' answers were not positive.

"The fact is that the risk (of the surgery) is too high, so we had to turn to conservative treatment. Hence Zhu Ting had seldom participated in training on the front row throughout the whole year before the Tokyo Games."

However, Lang admitted that Zhu's injury is not the sole cause of the team's early elimination.

"Our players count on her and sometimes they were waiting for Zhu to stand out, just like every time when they encountered difficulties over the past eight years," she said.

"But it doesn't mean that our players didn't work hard. The thing was we didn't work as a team sometimes, showing our joint force, and we couldn't find our rhythm."

Lang attributed her team's poor performance to mental stress and a lack of international competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Lang, Tokyo may see the end of her Olympic story, but for her team, it begins a journey to Paris 2024, which is expected to be a new high in their careers.

"They are still young, I've told them before our last match that this is your restart point for Paris," she said.

"What happened in Tokyo is a precious experience for those young players. I told them don't forget this. They need to remember the failure and find out how to recover when they encounter difficulties in the next Olympics."

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