Her nickname refers to the spikes that helped earn China an Olympic gold volleyball medal. But teamwork is what defined Lang Ping’s Olympic triumphs as player and coach, writes Brunswick’s Linjia Dai.
As a millennial Chinese woman, I consider myself very lucky. I was born in the late 1980s as China re-opened its economy to the world, with a few coastal cities, including my hometown, chosen for opening to international investment and trade. That carried the potential for a more prosperous and open-minded society to grow into and embrace. As an only child, my family could provide me with joyous life and the best education. The 1980s were an age full of hope.
What I miss the most from those years was the spirit—the feeling that everything was possible, and anything could be achieved with hard work and perseverance. If you asked me to summarize it, I’d call it the women’s volleyball team spirit, epitomized by Lang Ping leading China to win Olympic gold in 1984.
After decades of isolation from international sports, China returned to the Olympics that year and managed to beat the US team 3-0 on their home court in Los Angeles. It was a timely triumph when the country was in desperate need of confidence. Their Olympic success served as a kind of proof of national success. More than an Olympic medal, it showed the international community that China was getting back in the game.
The team was led by Lang Ping. Known as the “Iron Hammer” for her powerful spikes, Lang was 12 years old when she played volleyball for the first time, and she was selected for the national team in 1978 at the age of 18. Life as a full-time volleyballer is never easy, and this was especially the case for that team given the limited resources the country was able to provide in the early 1980s, even for its very best. They trained hard day and night, with a repetitive, strict, and sometimes dreadfully boring routine.