China's Lang Ping (left) and USA's Karch Kiraly were star players leading their countries to both World Championship and Olympic Games gold medals. Now they meet on the court as head coaches of tonight's World Championship final.
Milan, Italy, October 12, 2014 – This year is the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Olympic Games gold medals won by the Chinese women and the USA men in Los Angeles. Each team were led by iconic stars, Lang Ping and Karch Kiraly, who would rise to legendary status in their home countries.
Fast forward to 2014. These two playing stars are now cementing their names into history as players who have successfully transitioned into head coaching and will be on opposite benches Sunday as USA and China play for the FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 gold medal in Milan at 20:00.
As a player, Kiraly won two Olympic Games gold medals for indoor volleyball (1984 and 1988) and one for beach volleyball (1996). He is the only male or female player to earn a gold in both indoor and beach volleyball and is only the second player to have three gold medals in the two sport disciplines. Kiraly was named the greatest men’s volleyball player of the sport’s first century. He won the triple gold with gold medals in the 1985 FIVB World Cup and 1986 FIVB World Championship around the Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988.
After helping the Americans to the silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London as an assistant coach, Kiraly took over as head coach of the USA women in September 2012 and holds a 57-14 record as his second season is one day from being over with the most important match of his young head coaching career looms ahead.
Lang Ping has her own stack of medals as player. She led China to a 3-0 victory over USA in the 1984 Olympic Games gold-medal match, the only other time the two countries have met in a gold-medal match of a major international tournament.
Both Lang Ping and Kiraly are inductees into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame. Kiraly was enshrined into the Hall in 2001, while Lang Ping was inducted one year later.
In her first tenure as head coach, Lang Ping led China to the silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Lang Ping, now in her second tenure as head coach of China, served as the head coach for the USA from 2005-2008 and led the Americans to the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. She is a rarity in the coaching circles as one of only a few women to be coaching the highest ranked teams in the world – and the only female head coach among the 24 countries participating in this FIVB World Championship.
“Jenny had a fabulous career as a player and doing a great job as a coach for a program that is legendary,” Kiraly said. “The Chinese women's program has a great history of success. We respect them a lot, they are a great team and it will be a fun battle tonight.”
As either a player or head coach, Lang Ping will be participating in her fourth World Championship gold-medal match. As a player, she won a gold medal at the 1982 World Championship and a silver medal 1990 World Championship in her come-back year. As a head coach, she led China to the silver medal at the 1998 World Championship.
Four USA players – Foluke Akinradewo, Kristin Hildebrand, Nicole Davis and Courtney Thompson – in tonight’s World Championship gold-medal match have played for both Lang Ping and Kiraly.
"Fortunately I have had the great opportunity to play under both Karch and Jenny as head coaches,” Hildebrand said. “They are both incredible coaches and both have such knowledge about every aspect of the game. Both take great care in organizing offense and defense, and both are technically sound.”