Don't expect instant glory, says China volleyball coach Lang Ping
China coach says her young squad in the Hong Kong leg of the World Grand Prix is still developing, with the Rio Olympics the main target
Legendary Lang Ping pleaded for patience yesterday as she tries to restore the Chinese women's team to their former glory - in time for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Lang has two years to mould an experimental team into a world force, continuing at the Hong Kong leg of the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix this week.
Developing her players was more important than immediate results, she said.
"There are always high expectations on the China team, wanting us to win every match year after year, but this is not easy," said the 53-year-old coach.
"We have not produced sufficient quality players from the last games and therefore we recruited eight new players this year and they are all of a very young age.
"The team now need to go through a transitional period and we have to pay a substantial price for building up these young players before they can raise their game to reach world standards."
Lang is one of the most respected figures in volleyball, leading the China team to a gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, two World Cups and one world championship.
She then became coach of the China team for the first time and won silver at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Lang also had a spell as coach of the United States women's team and led them to a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Last year, she answered an SOS to return as national coach after China's disappointing showing at the 2012 London Games where they finished fifth.
Lang gave up a reportedly lucrative 5 million yuan (HK$6.3 million) annual salary to coach at Guangzhou Evergrande volleyball club to rejoin the national team.
"We have to start the 2016 Olympic qualifiers next year and it will be a big test, not only for us but also for other powerhouses. There is not one team who now dominate the world stage, not even London Olympic champions Brazil. They have failed in the recent World Championship and World Cup," said Lang.
China arrive in Hong Kong after losing two of their three games - to Italy and Brazil - in the opening leg of the World Grand Prix in Sassari, Sardinia, last week. Their only victory was over the Dominican Republic.
They will face Italy again this weekend, along with Asian powerhouses Japan and Thailand. Japan won a bronze medal at the London Olympics, while Thailand are Asian champions.
"The defeat by Italy was very close and it will be difficult to predict the outcome in Hong Kong," said Lang. "We want to win all three matches and it is not without reason for our young players to be more consistent."
Italy captain Francesca Piccinini agreed the Hong Kong leg would be difficult.
"China are always a force to be reckoned with even with many new players in the squad," said the 35-year-old veteran.
The 2014 World Grand Prix features 28 national teams. The top five teams after a three-week series will make it to the finals, along with hosts Japan.
China play Thailand in their opening match tomorrow.