China's volleyball heroine determined to make Olympics - despite heart surgery just a few months ago
The star of the national side has “a lot of work to do” according to coach Lang Ping as the outside hitter returns to training eight months after heart surgery
Chinese volleyball star Hui Ruoqi is trying to win a place on the China national volleyball squad for the Rio Olympics eight months after undergoing heart surgery.
The powerful 25-year-old former China captain has returned to training late last month after going under the knife last September in Beijing to correct a cardiac arrhythmia problem that has forced her on the sidelines for a year.
Her heart problem has also threatened to scupper her chances of making the final squad for Rio this summer.
Hui had been captain of the Chinese team in 2013 and has been hailed as the catalyst, who could steer China to their first gold medal in the sport since the Athens Games in 2004.
China coach Lang Ping is hopeful Hui will make the final 12 for Rio but insisted the outside hitter had not played in a year and needed a “lot of work” before she is ready for Rio.
“Her training is a lot better than it was when she first returned to the squad but we still have to monitor her condition closely. After all, she has not played for a year,” said Lang in Beijing on Tuesday.
“She will get more playing time when we compete in the Montreux Volley Masters in Switzerland next week. She needs to get her feeling back for the game. She needs time to get her skills back and improve the understanding with her teammates. She has to work hard.”
Lang said it would be too early to say if Hui and any other member would make the final squad.
“We will decide the squad probably after the Grand Prix and select the best 12 players for Rio,” said the coach.
China, a world power in the sport since winning the Olympic gold at Los Angeles in 1984, failed to medal in the London Games four years ago. And they have been put in a “Group of Death” in Rio according to Lang.
The pools for the Rio Games were finalised this week following the completion of the qualifying tournaments over the weekend. China, along with the United States, Italy, the Netherlands, Serbia and Puerto Rico are in group B with the top four going through to the knockout stage.
In group A, hosts Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Argentina and Cameroon have been drawn against each other.
Lang, who will be making her third trip to the Olympics as a coach, said: “Every match will be tough. We don’t play Puerto Rico very often but all the others are strong teams from America and Europe.”
Lang won the Olympic gold medal as a player at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. She was China coach at the 1996 Atlanta Games where China won silver. She also coached the United States to silver at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Former FIVB president Wei Jizhong paid a visit to the team at the National Training Centre in Beijing on Tuesday and said China, the United States and hosts Brazil are the top three teams most likely to win gold this summer.
“The teams are of a similar standard. Gold will go to the team who performs best on the day,” said the official.