Sunday, August 17, 2008

Debates die hard on U.S. volleyball coach Lang Ping days after China team defeated

The Chinese public have generally shown understanding and respect toward China-born U.S. volleyball coach Lang Ping after she led the American women team to a sweaty 3-2 win over China Friday night.

While some criticized her for being "unpatriotic", China's Internet users have largely accepted with peace the result and even cheered for Lang and for the Olympic spirit she displayed.

"Sports are without borders. Lang Ping is professional and deserves our respect," said Internet user "PianYizi" on an Internet forum.

"That's what we call Olympic spirit. Lang Ping, you're still a hero of Chinese volleyball," exclaimed another Internet user "Bin Bin".

Nicknamed "Iron Hammer", Lang was once a towering icon of Chinese sports. From 1981 to 1985, she, together with her Chinese women volleyball team, won five world championships, including two World Cup titles and an Olympic gold medal. She became the head coach of the U.S. women's national volleyball team in February 2005.

In a survey by the mainstream China Youth Daily, 52.5 percent of respondents said they cheered for Lang for the victory.

Lang also represents the so-called "Chinese Overseas Squad" -- those Chinese athletes and coaches who now play or coach in foreign countries, toward whom the Chinese public often harbor mixed feelings.

That could be reflected from the result of the survey. When answering how they view the overseas squad, 33.6 percent of those responded considered it "a normal phenomenon of international sports exchanges", and 32.4 percent felt "proud" because that demonstrated the international acceptance of Chinese sports level.

Still, 16 percent considered it "regrettable" and 6 percent were worried that it would threaten Chinese athletes' quest for championships.

Days before the match, China's go chess master Nie Weiping criticized Lang for serving in the U.S. team.

"I just can't understand: Why do they have to go coach a foreign team?" Nie said. "And never forget you're Chinese."

Nie's words drew immediate controversy from the public. While some showed support, most people criticized him of "ultra-nationalism".

"Nothing to fuss about Lang's coaching the U.S. team," said Internet user "Blue Castle". "It's a personal choice, a market activity and sports exchanges. It's ridiculous to view it from the political and nationalist perspectives."

"We also have many foreign coaches now helping Chinese teams winning medals. Should we also call them 'traitors" of their own countries and reject the medals we won under their coaching?" asked "Jin Ju".

In 1994, when former Chinese world table tennis champion He Zhili played in the Japanese name of Koyama Chire for her adopted country against Chinese players in the Asian Games, she was labeled as "turncoat" and "traitor" by an enraged Chinese public.

Only until several years ago did the Chinese recognize the former Chinese players who have switched their allegiance as "Chinese table tennis ambassadors".

When Lang took the helm of the U.S. women's team three years ago, it was also relatively calm in her home country.

"We are more open-minded than a decade ago," said Beijing-based sportswriter Qu Beilin. "We were mad about He Zhili more than 10 years ago and now we would congratulate Lang Ping."

Source: Xinhua

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