BEIJING - When
But here they are.
The U.S. routed Cuba on Thursday, 25-20, 25-16, 25-17, in just 67 minutes to advance to the gold medal game for the first time since Lang Ping and the Chinese faced the
Lang Ping has morphed from China's greatest sports superstar to an international coaching force. She took the head coaching job because her teenage daughter,
The glory days of Chinese volleyball ended after the Lang Ping era. China placed eighth at the 1994 world championships. In 1995 China reached out to the Lang Ping -- this time as a coach. Her assistant was future China head coach
On Thursday Cuba was unable to handle the U.S. front line of
It worked. The U.S. hasn't lost a match since.
No doubt the Cuba loss was partly the result of an emotional blow to the U.S. team. Two days before, the team was devastated by an apparently random attack on former teammate
The team regrouped, dedicated the Games to the Bachman family, and then started to play what they call "USA Volleyball."
Now USA Volleyball has a distinctly Chinese touch. In 1984 Lang Ping was the outside hitter for the Chinese team at the Los Angeles Olympics.
Two years ago, the United States women's volleyball team had lost all of its backup setters and went to the world championships in Japan, wounded and struggling. They placed ninth. Last year the team placed third in the World Cup tournament to qualify for the Olympics. That was commendable, but they didn't have to face world champion Italy or powerhouse China in that event. They came to Beijing ranked fourth in the world.
"We've come alive as a team," setter
On Saturday, they play for Olympic gold.