In its match against the USA tonight, China faces coach Lang Ping, a key player on China's 1984 gold medal-winning team. She is known in the United States as "Jenny," and despite leaving China to coach one of its volleyball rivals, remains beloved on the mainland.
A win tonight against the Americans or Sunday against Japan would clinch China's spot in the next round. China hopes a little home advantage in these Olympics will help it repeat its Athens gold medal performance, but competition is fierce this time around, with Brazil as the favorite and five other teams seriously challenging for medals. Olympic volleyball, like basketball, begins with two six-team pools, whittled down to an eight-team playoff after each team plays five games.
Here are China's leaders in four statistical categories over three games (more stats available here):
1. Wang Yimei – 39
2. Zhou Suhong – 24
3. Ma Yunwen – 24
1. Ma Yunwen – 11
2. Zhao Ruirui – 7
3. Feng Kun – 4
1. Zhou Suhong – 7
2. Ma Yunwen – 5
3. Zhao Ruirui - 3
1. Zhang Na - 41
2. Zhou Suhong – 36
3. Feng Kun - 18
Tags: Beijing Olympics, Olympics, volleyball, Zhao Ruirui
Yao Ming (姚明), athletics' Liu Xiang (刘翔) and the Chinese diving team. But did you know that China has a gold medal contender in light flyweight boxer Zou Shiming (邹市明)? And have you met Feng Kun (冯坤) and Zhao Ruirui's (赵蕊蕊) supporting cast on the Chinese women's volleyball team?
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Tags: athletes, boxing, diving, Feng Kun, Liu Xiang, Olympics, volleyball, Yao Ming, Zhao Ruirui, Zou Shiming
Coming off of gold in Athens, and returning top players like Zhao and Feng Kun (冯坤), expectations are high for Chinese women's volleyball in Beijing. But there will be nothing easy about the team's road to any medal, let alone gold.
The FIVB (Federation Internationale de Volleyball) World Grand Prix, which concluded in Yokohama, Japan, over the weekend, showed just how fierce competition is in this sport, with the top six teams all serious medal contenders. China finished in fifth place.
Brazil won the tournament with a 5-0 record; Cuba took silver at 4-1; Italy won bronze with a record of 2-3. Also finishing ahead of China was the United States, led by China's 1984 gold medalist Lang Ping (known in the United States as Jenny Lang Ping). In head-to-head competition, the United States beat China in a five-setter (25-23, 25-19, 22-25, 21-25 and 17-15). China also lost to Italy, Cuba and Brazil. Its only win came over Japan.
The field for the 2008 Olympics is broken into six-team pools. China's includes Italy, Japan and the United States. China's round robin schedule is as follows:
August 10, 8:00 p.m. v. Bulgaria (Capital Indoor Stadium)
August 12, 8:00 p.m. v. Venezuela (Capital Indoor Stadium)
August 14, 8:00 p.m. v. Japan (Capital Indoor Stadium)
August 16, 10:00 a.m. v. USA (Beijing Institute of Technology)
August 18, 8:00 p.m. v. Italy (Capital Indoor Stadium)
The best of the above games will be the last three. China should definitely be among the top four teams from that pool, which will put them into an eight-team single-elimination playoff, with the losers of the two semifinal matches playing for bronze. Tournament play begins August 20 at Capital Indoor Stadium. The bronze and gold medal matches will be played August 24, also at Capital Indoor Stadium.
Tags: Feng Kun, Olympics, volleyball, Zhao Ruirui
The 6'5" (1.97-meter) Zhao, the team's linchpin, has not seen much action since leading the team to a gold medal at the Athens Games in 2004. Feng has been out for about a year following knee surgery. The pair returned for a friendly series against Cuba, which includes matches in Fuzhou, Jinjiang and Xiamen.
Zhao looked healthy and very happy to be playing in the first four matches of the series. She is averaging 10.7 points per game, according to this report from China Daily.
Tags: Feng Kun, volleyball, women, Zhao Ruirui