COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 3, 2008) - The U.S. Women’s Olympic Indoor Volleyball Team held high expectations to do well at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and finish on the medal stand.
The U.S. had reason for its aura of confidence with a veteran roster of six players with past Olympic Games experience. Team USA also went into Athens with the FIVB’s No. 1 world ranking after finishing on the medal stand in most major international competitions from 2003 to 2004.
Yet, the U.S. departed Athens with a self-described disappointing fifth-place finish after losing a five-set match to Brazil in the quarterfinal round. Earlier five-set losses to Russia and Dominican Republic and a four-set setback to China in pool play proved costly in determining the Americans’ crossover quarterfinal opponent for its route to the medal round matches.
That was then.
Entering the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Team USA is once again laden with a roster full of Olympic veterans. Eight of the 12 players have played in at least one Olympic Games, including five players who were also part of the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.
But several differences exist between the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. Team USA is ranked fourth in the world instead of a target on its back as the top-ranked team in 2004. Further, no single country has been able to dominate the international game in the current quadrennial. Experts see has many as eight teams, or two-thirds of the field, with legitimate shots to reach the medal stand.
Among the differences for the U.S. squad for the 2008 Olympic Games is the coaching staff that brings Olympic playing experience to its background. “Jenny” Lang Ping (Beijing, China), who signed in early 2005 to lead Team USA in the current quadrennial, will serve as the U.S. team’s head coach in her hometown of Beijing and will participate in her third Olympic Games. She starred for the Chinese Olympic Team as an outside hitter and led the squad to a 1984 Olympic Gold Medal in Los Angeles. She coached the Chinese Olympic Team to a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. A 2002 inductee into the international Volleyball Hall of Fame, Lang Ping is still revered by Chinese fans akin to a Michael Jordan status.
Now, Lang Ping moves into rare company in international circles. According to FIVB files, she will be moving into company of Hungary women’s team coach Gabriella Kotsis as female coaches to lead teams into multiple Olympics. Kotsis led Hungary during the golden era of Hungarian Volleyball, leading the country into three Olympic Games (1972, 1976, 1980). Lang Ping is currently the only female head coach of a national volleyball federation with a team in the top 20 world ranking.