Lang to 'hammer' Chinese into shape
THE volleyball legend who 'hammered' her way into Chinese hearts in 1984, has been given the task of rejuvenating China's battered pride.
Lang Ping, arguably China's most famous and beloved sports personality, is faced with the challenge of moulding a team capable of taking gold at next year's Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Nicknamed the 'Hammer' for her blistering smashes, Lang was China's undoubted hero of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as she helped her country to the gold medal.
But 11 years down the road, China are no more the invincible outfit that Lang was so much a part of.
After finishing a disappointing seventh at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, Chinese volleyball officials sent out a distress signal to Lang, who by then had settled in the United States.
Lang answered their call and is now implementing the final part of her plan to bring China gold in Atlanta.
This week's Wing Wah Mooncake Cup in Macau is part of the US$2 million World Grand Prix series, featuring the world's eight top teams battling it out in a global competition.
The Macau event features China, world champions Cuba, Brazil and Germany in a three-day, round robin contest.
The top three countries, after eight stops on the tour, and China, qualify for the series grand final in Shanghai at the end of next month.
Lang sees the series as the last chance for teams to get in some serious competition before the Olympics.
But she feels there is still a long way to go for her young side.
'I think we have a great team, but they are still very young,' said Lang. 'Seven of the 12 players have only recently been introduced to the national side.
'But there is a lot of potential in the side and all they need is lots of international experience and time to develop, which is why this tournament is so important for us.' Lang rates Cuba as the team to beat in the series.
'It's difficult to predict how we will get on in the tournament because most of the teams are pretty much equal and it depends on how they perform on any given day.
'But it is true to say that Cuba, at the moment, are a bit better than the rest,' said Lang.