1 August 2008 :At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, as the Chinese women’s volleyball team entered the arena for the final against the USA, their star spiker Lang Ping, nicknamed the “Iron Hammer”, spotted the US coach and three of his players already wearing gold medals. “Let’s pluck those medals from their necks,” she said to her team-mates, and a flawless performance saw China, in their first Olympic Games, finish as winners in straight sets.
Four years ago in Athens, the Chinese women won again, bringing to an end Cuba’s run of three Olympic titles in a row. Now, China and the US are drawn in the same six-team pool for the 2008 Games and their eagerly anticipated “re-match” will come in the fourth round of games. The “Iron Hammer” is even back as coach – to the Americans! But such is Lang Ping’s popularity in her home country that the Americans, who know their coach simply as Jenny, will be able to rely on great support – and you can be sure they won’t be taking any medals for granted this time.
World Cup winner with runner up in same group
Italy and Brazil, World Cup winners and runners-up respectively, are confidently expected to join the Chinese and the Americans among the quarter-finalists. They are drawn together in Pool B which also includes Athens silver medallists Russia, African champions Algeria, Serbia and Kazakhstan. Making up Pool A with China and the US are Poland, Cuba, Japan and Venezuela.
Brazil with Giba
The men’s competition is a different ball game for the hosts, who are the lowest ranked of all the teams. China are in a pool with 2004 silver medallists Italy, World Cup bronze medallists Bulgaria, third-ranked USA as well as Japan and Venezuela. The other pool features hot favourites and defending champions Brazil, led by star wing attacker Gilberto Godoy Filho, better known as Giba. Poland, Serbia, Egypt, Germany and Brazil’s arch-rivals Russia make up the group.
In beach volleyball, Brazil, with men’s defending champions Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos, will be strong again with two pairs seeded in the top three in both the men’s and the women’s division. But they can expect a challenge from China’s men, in the shape of Penggen Wu and Linyin Xu, and the Olympic women’s champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor of the USA.