Aug 23, 2016

    Team China urged to learn from volleyball feat

    OF ALL the gold medals China have collected in Rio, the shiniest could turn out to be the one won by their women's volleyball team.

    After a few wobbles in the early stages, they clinched victory against Serbia in the final on Sunday morning - a result that defied the odds.

    And no sooner had the final ball crashed onto the floor that WeChat, the instant-messaging app, was flooded with posts celebrating the team's "never-say-die spirit" as they claimed China's third Olympic gold in the event in 32 years.

    The nation won their first gold in women's volleyball at Los Angeles 1984 and second at Athens 2004.

    In Rio's Maracanazinho Arena, the team's 3-1 defeat of Serbia was cheered by hundreds of Chinese fans waving red flags and singing.

    Led by star player Lang Ping, now the head coach, China's women's volleyball team won five consecutive world titles between 1981 and 1986 - two World Cups, two world championships and the 1984 Olympics gold.

    The never-say-die spirit that carried the squad through rigorous training greatly inspired the nation in the 1980s.

    "The spirit of the Chinese women's volleyball team is to never give up. My job as the coach is to guide this young team to carry on this spirit," said Lang, the first person to win Olympic gold in volleyball as a player and coach.

    With the retirement of key players and frequent coaching changes, the team saw a slump in results after 2008 until Lang returned for a second spell at the helm in 2013.

    She was also head coach from 1995 to 1998.

    With the team back on top, fans and senior sports figures are calling for more Chinese athletes to show the same spirit.

    "The spirit has not gone but it exists in only a limited number of teams today," said Wei Jizhong, honorary life president of the International Volleyball Federation.

    "The volleyball team embodies that spirit."