Lang Ping, Kerri Walsh Take Part in Olympic Torch Relay in San Francisco
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 10, 2008) – U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team Head Coach “Jenny” Lang Ping (Beijing, China) and USA beach volleyball Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh (Santa Clara, Calif.) were among approximately 80 individuals to take a turn running the Olympic torch on Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco, the only North American city to host the Olympic Torch Relay as the flame journeys to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games.
"USA Volleyball is incredibly proud to have Jenny and Kerri representing the sport of volleyball during the Olympic Torch Relay," USA Volleyball Chief Executive Officer Doug Beal said. “Not only are they among the best in their sport disciplines, they truly have a tremendous passion for the Olympic Games and the Olympic spirit. They are remarkable ambassadors for the sport and have widespread respect around the world."
Lang Ping, one of the most famous and respected individuals in the history of volleyball, begins her fourth year serving as head coach of the U.S. Women's National Team. She will lead Team USA into her native China for the 2008 Olympic Games.
“It was a great feeling running the torch,” Lang Ping said. “There were lots of people waving USA and China flags creating lots of excitement surrounding the torch."
For Lang Ping, the Olympic torch and the 2008 Olympic Games holds special meaning to her in comparison to her two previous trips to the grandest international stage. Although asked to take part in the Olympic Torch Relay on two previous occasions only to decline because of coaching responsibilities, the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay happened while her current U.S. team is on a vacation period. Further, the Olympic Games are in her hometown where the torch will eventually land come August 2008.
"I feel like I am on both sides with China and the United States," Lang Ping said. "I was selected by the U.S. delegation to run in the Olympic Torch Relay and I am currently the head coach for the U.S. National Team. On the other hand, I was also representing my home country, China. I am very proud to have experienced this opportunity. The flame is going to my hometown, and hopefully I can carry this spirit on to the Olympic Games in Beijing."
After the relay, Lang Ping related her training regimen leading up to the Olympic Torch Relay. While leading a young U.S. Women’s National Team on an exhibition tour of China from March 17-April 6, she ran 200-meter sprints during her spare time.
"I wish I could have run farther with the torch as I probably over-trained while in China," Lang Ping said half-jokingly as her journey with the torch was an estimated 15 meters.
The U.S. qualified for the Olympics by reaching the medal stand at the 2007 FIVB World Cup in Japan with a bronze-medal finish in November. The World Cup capped off a 26-11 season which included victories over Brazil in the World Cup, a win over then-top-ranked Russia and two victories over NORCECA rival Cuba.
Lang Ping, with a 68-38 record as head coach of Team USA, is a rarity in the international women’s volleyball circles. She is the only female head coach among the top 20 countries listed in the current FIVB World Ranking. Team USA currently holds fourth place in the FIVB’s international ranking.
According to FIVB files, Lang Ping will be moving into the same company of Hungary women's team coach Gabriella Kotsis as female coaches to lead teams into multiple Olympics. Kotsis led Hungary during the golden era of Hungarian Volleyball, leading the country into three Olympic Games (1972, 1976, 1980).
In Lang Ping's case, she will be accomplishing the feat with two different countries. As head coach of the 1996 Chinese Olympic team that competed in Atlanta, Lang Ping guided China to a silver medal.
Lang Ping's Olympic experience has not been exclusively as a coach. She has Olympic medal experience as both a player and coach while competing in the United States. During the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, she was a powerful outside hitter known as the "Iron Hammer" and led the Chinese squad to the gold medal over Team USA in the championship match.
Lang Ping was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame as a player on Oct. 18, 2002, culminating an incredible career that saw her establish herself as one of the finest female volleyball players ever.
Lang Ping has enjoyed celebrity status in her home country. Revered by Chinese fans, she has been honored with her own postage stamp, had her wedding broadcast on Chinese national television and has stadiums named after her in China.
Similarly, Walsh has experienced a stardom in volleyball, both in indoor and beach disciplines. She grew up in Santa Clara, Calif., and attended Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose. Walsh graduated from Stanford University in 2001 with a degree in American studies. While at Stanford, she was a four-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American and led the Cardinal to two NCAA championships in 1996 and 1997.
Walsh competed in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney with the U.S. Women’s Indoor National Team, which finished fourth.
In 2001, Walsh transitioned to beach volleyball with playing partner Misty May (now Misty May-Treanor) and the duo quickly found success, winning the 2003 FIVB World Championship and then the 2004 Olympic gold medal in Athens.
Since Athens, Walsh and May-Treanor (Costa Mesa, Calif.) have won two more FIVB Beach World Championships in 2005 and 2007. They had the best year of their careers in 2007, winning seven out of eight international SWATCH FIVB tournaments and 13 out of 15 domestic tournaments on the AVP Crocs Tour.
Walsh and May-Treanor are the top-ranked U.S. women’s beach team and are well on their way to qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
For Lang Ping’s complete bio, visit her profile at http://www.usavolleyball.org/National/profiles/women/LangPingBio.asp.
For Walsh's complete bio, visit her profile at http://www.bvbinfo.com/player.asp?ID=1923.
About the Olympic Torch Relay
The Beijing Olympic Torch Relay, running under the theme of “Journey of Harmony,” started its worldwide journey on March 24, 2008. The Olympic Flame was lit in ancient Olympia and will travel 85,000-miles before arriving at its final destination in Beijing to open the 2008 Olympic Games.
San Francisco served as the only North American stop on the Olympic Flame’s journey to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games. The Olympic torch traveled via 80 runners a six-mile path along San Francisco Bay starting at 1 p.m. Pacific Time.
The Olympic torch moves on to Buenos, Aires, Argentina, as part of the 130-day, 21-stop, six-continent tour before arriving back in mainland China on May 4. The round-the-world trip is the longest in Olympic history, and is meant to highlight China's rising economic and political power.