Sang-ryul was considered a possible replacement for Chang-back when the latter was considering resignation. Sang-ryul was instead appointed to the head of China's relatively weak men's side, where he hopes to at least put on a decent show for the home fans.
But Sang-ryul has already been quite impressive in his post, coaching his team to a surprising silver medal at the 2006 Doha Asian Games while defeating several high-profile Asian rivals such as eight-time Olympic gold medalist India and three-time gold winner Pakistan.
World No 17 China's Olympic prospects became even better after it upset high-ranked teams such as Malaysia and South Korea at recent invitational tournaments.
"I believe China can become as successful as the Koreans," said Sang-ryul, who led his home team to a historic silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Outside of field hockey, South Korean coaches have also brought their world and Olympic gold-medal tactics to China's men's and women's handball.
Last year, Kang Jae-won came to China as the fourth consecutive South Korean coach for the nation's women's handball team. Before him, South Koreans Wui Yeong-man, Chung Hyung-kyun and Kim Gap-soo also tried their luck with the squad, which had won a bronze medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Chung was the most successful one of the bunch, leading China to a win over Olympic and world champion South Korea in the 2003 Asian Championships final.
South Korean coaches have excelled in other events as well. Wui coached the Chinese men's team, helping it qualify for the 1997 World Championships. And archery coach Yang Chang-hoon helped China win a historic recurve women's team event title at the 41st World Outdoor Target Archery Championships.
The training methods and management styles favored by some foreign coaches was admittedly a challenge to China's traditional concepts. But South Korean coaches' combination of scientific and tough trainings have proved effective, and have produced excellent results.
"It's hard to explain why South Korean coaches are so successful," said Kang. "As for me, every time when I take over a team, I just try to put my heart in there."
(China Daily May 27, 2008)