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Zhang Changning hits the ball in the women’s preliminary round pool B volleyball match between China and Argentina at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: AFP

China’s Zhang Changning to miss Volleyball World Championships, says she won’t return to national team any time soon

  • Zhang says her absence from the game will continue because of ‘my physical and psychological condition’
  • Head coach Cai Bin is also without injured star spiker Zhu Ting, as he names squad for next month’s tournament

China volleyball star Zhang Changning has announced she will not return to action any time soon.

After nearly 11 months on the sidelines, reports had surfaced that she could come back into the national team fold in August, ahead of next month’s Women’s Volleyball World Championships in Poland and the Netherlands.

But the 26-year-old wrote in a Weibo post this week that she has long been suffering from injury problems, and indicated she needed more time to fully recover.

“Both my physical and psychological condition mean I am unable to compete in high-level competitions right now,” Zhang wrote in her post on China’s Twitter-like social media platform.

“Compared to physical pain, I’m more afraid of the feeling of powerlessness.”

Zhang Changning (left) of China spikes the ball against Serbia at the 2019 FIVB Women’s World Cup in Osaka, Japan. Photo: Xinhua/Zhu Wei

However Zhang – who was an integral part of the China side that won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics – insisted her latest statement did not mean she was retiring.

The spiker last competed when she led Jiangsu to second place at the China National Games in September 2021.

She undergoing surgery on her meniscus two months later, and has had other problems with her left ankle, shoulders and waist.

“Being a professional athlete is not easy,” Zhang added. “I hope the public can give us more patience rather than doubt, more encouragement rather than complaints.”

China’s defence of their Olympic title ended at the group stages in Tokyo last summer, following defeats to Turkey, rivals the USA and Russia, though they signed off on a high with a win over Argentina, in which Zhang scored 18 points.
Zhang Changning with former coach Lang Ping. Photo: Handout
But their legendary coach Lang Ping – known as “The Iron Hammer” – walked away from the team after the disastrous campaign in Japan.

Zhang was left out of new head coach Cai Bin’s squad for the World Championships, which was announced on Tuesday, with star spiker Zhu Ting also missing because of injury.

The women’s competition will take place from September 23 to October 15, with China in Group D alongside Brazil, Japan, Colombia, Argentina and the Czech Republic.

Coach Cai said he is looking for a better result after China finished in sixth place at the 2022 Volleyball Nations League.