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China treating Nations League Hong Kong as ‘training camp’, says volleyball legend Lang Ping

Pressure is on world’s number one women’s team after struggling in first two rounds of new format as Italy, Argentina and old foes Japan await

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 9:36am

The world number one Chinese women’s team are treating the FIVB Volleyball Nations League Hong Kong leg as a “training camp for new players”, says legendary coach Lang Ping.

“We are serious about every game, every game after we finish we try to conclude and improve.”

Lang won Olympic gold as both player and coach, becoming the first volleyballer to do it, while also guiding the US team to silver at Beijing 2008.

Her China team won gold in Rio at the last Summer Games, the World Cup a year later and the World Grand Champions Cup in Japan last October.

China have struggled so far in the Nations League, winning three and losing the other three of their six games over the first two rounds. After disappointing on home court in Ningbo and then again in Macau last week, Lang wants to put it right.

“All games are really important and I expect a lot from all of the players. I hope all athletes have a chance to compete in a game.”

Captain Zhu Ting was also at the press conference as she returned to the squad ahead of the three-day tournament starting on Tuesday with China v Argentina after Japan v Italy and Lang was sure that Zhu would lead the players.

“She’s doing her best every time, doing a good job, she expects a lot of herself and is a great example to the younger players,” Lang said of the skipper.

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The 23-year old who plays for Turkish club side Vakifbank Istanbul is confident China can counter the pressure by working hard: “Group practice and training improves composure and teamwork.”

The Chinese side’s biggest test comes on day two when they face world number six Japan, a game that will be replayed in the Asian Games in Indonesia later this summer.

The China game will be a “tough match”, said Japan coach Kumi Nakada. “I expect the players to play their best and show all the fans in Hong Kong their very best.”

30.4.2017 It will be our last match at 1300 of this season. See you #nevergiveup

A post shared by Zhu Ting (@zhuting1129) on Apr 29, 2017 at 3:29pm PDT

Nakada says she expects a lot of the returning Sarina Koga and that Yurie Nebayi could be back in practice at “any time”.

This year the Nations League has replaced the World League and Wilfred Ng of the Hong Kong Volleyball Association was hopeful that the new format would strike the same chord with Hongkongers because “every game matters” as they chase the top six spots and a place in the final round in China in July.

The hosts qualify automatically for the finals.

Zhu Ting, Lang Ping and China women’s volleyball team hit the gym as they prepare for Nations League in Hong Kong

Italy and Argentina are the lesser lights at the Hong Kong leg with the South Americans the only team outside the world top 10 and sitting dead last in the 16-team Nations League table after six losses from six.

“Each match is a challenge,” coach Guillermo Orduna explains of his preparations. “We need for each match to play at a high-level.” He admits his side need to improve and that they are all important matches in Hong Kong.

Italy still harbour hopes of making the finals.

Coach Davide Mazzanti says that this round of matches is really important for them making the top six from ninth, one place below China in the ladder.

“We can’t wait to play this round, to rise to the occasion,” he said. “Now we’ve changed some players and we need some time to improve our game.”

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This is the second part of a tournament they planned in two parts – first to give his young players experience and now to bring in more senior players in order to qualify after resting them following a long season. “Now I play with all my team.”