Legendary Feng Kun: An inspirational leader
It was not by accident that “Panda”, as she was nicknamed, won the unofficial title as the best setter in the world.
Following her retirement in 2011 season it was somehow logical to imagine her as a coach and mentor for the young generation of Chinese players, but the MVP of the women’s tournament at the 2004 Olympic Games is not ready the accept the challenge of being a coach, at least for the time being.
“I really never thought about it,” Feng said while attending the General Technical Meeting of the FIVB Women’s U23 World Championship as China’s Team Manager. “I am just relaxing my body and trying to enjoy my life at this moment.”
She didn’t dismiss totally the idea, by adding: “Probably in the future I would give it a try, but not for now.”
To mentor young players, especially setters, is a different story.
“I am retired from playing but I am not far away from volleyball,” she explained. “I am close to the volleyball family and I want to transmit all of my experience to the young players.”
Wang Na is one of the current setters in the senior team of China with good qualities that need to be polished, according to Feng.
“I think of Wang Na because she is young (currently 23) and also has a good body and a good technique,” she commented. “But she needs to practice more and take that step to improve herself.”
Feng hung her sneakers at the age of 33, which is considered premature for players of her position who usually stay active until their late 30’s.
“I don’t think I was young when decided to retire,” she said. “The last two years of my playing career, my body was not as strong as it used to be and I have had a knee surgery. So it was the appropriate time to leave.”
As the captain of China squad in the past decade, she helped her team to win multiple gold medals in FIVB competitions, including the Grand Champions Cup in 2001 and the World Grand Prix and the World Cup in 2003. She also won a gold medal in Athens and the bronze in the Beijing Games.
“The gold medal of the Olympic Games is a very nice memory that will be forever in my mind,” she confessed. “I hope I can live another moment like that in my future. I played for many years and feel lucky to have won that gold medal.”
China is now ranked No. 5 in the world rankings but it is placed atop of the junior and youth rankings a sign of good things to come in the near future.
“It takes a long process to win more gold medals and I hope China to be a strong team again,” Feng acknowledges. “They need to work very hard, to get a good teamwork and enjoy the game. That’s what volleyball is about.”
A new generation of Chinese players is in Mexico to participate in the inaugural FIVB Women’s U23 World Championship and Feng hopes they can get a much needed experience.
“Our team started their preparation just one month ago,” she admitted. “As we try for the best result possible I hope they can benefit from a vast experience.”
“We have a very strong team but they need to go step by step because the other teams are also strong in Pool B,” she said. “First we need to reach the top four and then start thinking about being number 1. To have a good first game is very important to build the confidence.”
Feng Kun and the Chinese team were among the first to arrive in Mexico for the competition and held a training camp at Baja California High Performance Center in Tijuana.
“For me it is the first time coming to Mexico and everything has been good, the facilities and the food. We are trying to enjoy ourselves and get the best result we can,” she concluded.
Volleyball fans around the world are for sure missing her rich display of skills as one of the best setters ever, but they must feel fortunate to have Feng Kun around as part of the family.