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Superstar Lang walks down Memory Lane as USA Women get used to 'Jennymania'

USA Women's Head Coach "Jenny" Ping Lang is a superstar in her native China

Beijing, China, August 6, 2008 - Jordanmania has got nothing on Jennymania.

USA Women's Head Coach "Jenny" Ping Lang is a Grade A superstar in her native China, remembered for her stellar playing career when she was called the "Iron Hammer."

As USA National Team player Nicole Davis says: "Mothers want their children to touch her. There aren’t any parallels to that in the United States, not Michael Jordan, nothing."

The fervour that surrounds Lang in China is more akin to The Beatles at Shea Stadium.

Speaking at the United States Olympic Committee press conference on Tuesday, the 47-year-old Lang, who won Olympic gold in Los Angeles in 1984 as a player and led the Chinese Women to silver at Atlanta 1996 as coach, was quizzed on the chances of Chinese athletes, her memories of China's famous 1981 FIVB World Cup win, and changes in the country since she started coaching abroad.

USA players
Danielle Scott-Arruda and Nicole Davis were also asked about their team's chances at the Beijing Games and what it is like to have a superstar for a coach.

Can you estimate how important it is for the Chinese athletes to do well here?
Lang: It already has been 12 years since I left and the players are different. Of course, the country is different. China has opened the door and is very international right now. I can’t speak for the athletes, but I can for myself. People in China are supportive of the athletes. We have consistent training system for the young. There is very good coaching and the athletes go step-by-step to a higher level.

How much of a memory do you have of the 1981 FIVB World Cup and how much of a role did that victory have in the buildup of sports in China?
Lang: I was surprised after we won the World Cup, people were so excited. It was like a dream. At that time, China wasn’t open to the world. People believed we could do well and not only in sports. It gave people confidence that they could have a better life.

How did your fans react to you coaching in the United States?
Lang: Most of my friends understand right now. Sports are so international. They understand it’s a great honor for me to coach a USA team.

Can you talk about the changes in Beijing since 2001?
Lang: I come back every year a couple of times, but it’s like I haven’t been home for a long time.

How difficult was it to move from a country where you’re such a hero?
Lang: The first time I went to the United States, it was big decision because I wanted to taste a normal life. In China I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t stay in my room all the time. In the United States, not too many people would recognize me and I could have a normal life.

Your thoughts on being in Beijing?
Scott-Arruda: The players are excited to finally be in Beijing to finally reach this moment after four years of training. I think we’re prepared under the leadership of Jenny. We’re going to go out and take each match point for point.

You’re playing in your fourth Olympic Games, but what has it been like the last several years been like playing for Jenny and the difference in the preparation and coming to Beijing?
Scott-Arruda: Jenny was a player and she knows the inside game to Volleyball. She really knows how to train and prepare our team. Our training has been varied in terms of what we’re working on specifically to improve our game.

What’s it like having a superstar for a coach?
Scott-Arruda: We’ve gotten used to it. Having her as our coach is an example of how we should be role models and understand the position we’re in.

Your thoughts of being in Beijing?
Davis: Everything is beautiful, the village, the venues, so we are looking forward to things to come.

What’s it like having a superstar for a coach?
Davis: It’s difficult for us as Americans to grasp her popularity because Volleyball isn’t as popular in the United States. It’s been a neat experience to see a woman held up so high with such respect from all generations. Mothers want their children to touch her. There aren’t any parallels to that in the United States, not Michael Jordan, nothing. It’s extremely unique.

More information:
USA Women will play against defending Olympic champions China in a Preliminary Round match on Friday, August 15, in a contest between Lang and her former assistant Zhonghe Chen.

Lang is the only woman Volleyball coach at the Beijing Games. She joins former Hungary coach Gabriella Kotsis as one of only two women Volleyball coaches to lead teams at multiple Olympics.



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