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Cheer for Lang Ping, cheer for Olympic spirit
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16:52, August 16, 2008

Twenty-four years after "Iron Hammer" Lang Ping led her team to beat the United States and win China's first Olympic volleyball gold, she coached the United States women's volleyball team to conquer the Chinese squad on Friday night.

Both victories were applauded by the Chinese despite the change of Lang's role.

Lang Ping, head coach of the U.S. women's volleyball team, directs players during the women's preliminary pool A match 23 between China and the United States at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games volleyball event in Beijing, China, Aug. 15, 2008. The U.S. beat China 3-2. (Xinhua)

"Lang Ping is the role model for every Chinese female volleyball player. She coaches the U.S. team and has helped them improve and change their style. When we play with the U.S. team, we do not have any strange feeling," said middle blocker Liu Yanan after the Chinese team lost the tussle 2-3 in a preliminary.

"To tell the truth, no matter which team won the match, we were happy. We loved the Chinese women volleyball team very much, but also thought Lang Ping really worked hard and overcame lots of difficulties when coaching overseas. She deserves the win," said a Chinese journalist covering the match.

The Friday win for the U.S. women's volleyball team has ensured them a berth in quarterfinal.

Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in China. After the Chinese women's volleyball team won a gold in 1984 at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, Lang and her teammates all became household names in China. Lang's image was even printed on stamps and her wedding ceremony broadcast by national TV station.

Twenty-four years after that, the Chinese people's affection toward sports and volleyball seemed unchanged, but their attitude toward sports has changed.

Twenty-four years ago, when Lang and her teammates cheered for their Olympic victory, her compatriot high jumper Zhu Jianhua failed to clinch the Olympic gold as many Chinese had expected, and ended up at the third place. Although the result was not too bad, windows of Zhu's family were smashed by the angry masses.

At that time, when China just began its reform and opening-up drive, sports were regarded as one of a few things to showcase the Chinese people's national pride, and were loaded with too many sentiments. In those years, it was unimaginable that the Chinese people could accept their national hero becoming the head coach of an archrival of the Chinese team.

Three decades of reform and opening up not only lifted China's economy to the fourth place in the world, but also broadened the Chinese people's horizon and infused them with more confidence. Today, sports are merely sports. The Chinese people have learnt to take a sporting attitude toward sports.

On Friday night, the 14,000-seat stadium was full packed, with deafening cheers of "Go China" reverberating around. Although the Chinese team lost the match eventually, the spectators were calm and showed full understanding of the result.

"I am a little bit disappointed for the loss of the Chinese team, but it's okay, because we also love Lang Ping. She is very professional and her love for volleyball is really impressive. She should be credited with the improvement of the U.S. team," said a spectator in his 30s surnamed Ma, who works for an IT company.

"Tonight, I try to concentrate on match, try not to have too much emotion involved. I try to be professional and give my team instructions timely," Lang told the reporters after the match.

Yes, on Friday night, Lang earned national esteem for China in another way -- going all out to steer the U.S. team to victory. And more preciously, her love for volleyball has been understood by the Chinese people.

Source: Xinhua

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1 China 27 11 6 44
2 USA 15 14 19 48
3 Germany 8 3 5 16
4 South Korea 6 9 3 18
5 Italy 6 5 4 15
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