The Chinese saying "to retire after huge success" is not yet true with the country's volleyball icon Lang Ping, who directed the Chinese women's volleyball team to Olympic top podium at Rio 2016 and was just promoted to chief coach of the team.
The appointment by the Chinese volleyball association came on Wednesday as injury-plagued Lang was still recovering after a surgery, ending six months' speculation whether she would stay after her contract expired.
The chief coach is a new position designed for Lang, said an official statement of the Chinese volleyball association. She will focus on making plans for the team which aims to repeat its past glory in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
FROM HELMSMAN TO NAVIGATOR
Lang is the only person to win Olympic golds as a player and a coach, and is widely considered the best choice for Chinese women's volleyball to a new high.
As a veteran ace spiker, Lang has already been a national heroine since she helped China snatch five consecutive world titles from 1981 to 1986 and is dubbed the "Iron Hammer."
Three decades later, she, as head coach, rekindled the national pride by claiming the Olympic women's volleyball title in Rio 2016, 12 years after China last won the gold in Athens 2004.
Women's volleyball is the only sport that made into Chinese President Xi Jinping's New Year speech when he mentioned the progress in many aspects China achieved in the "extraordinary and unforgettable year" of 2016.
But behind Lang's "spirit of women's volleyball" are injuries brought by intensive training in her athlete career. She has experienced more than 10 surgeries, and was suffering from severe damage in her right hip joint last year.
Her health became the major variate of whether she would carry on coaching the national team. The 57-year-old had said that before deciding, her priority was to have her hip joint fixed.
Considering of Lang's condition, the main task of Lang is to steer the team in general, said Li Quanqiang, head of China's volleyball administration.
To reduce the burden on Lang, An Jiajie, her assistant coach at the Rio Olympics, was named as executive coach, also a new position designed for routine coaching work, said the statement of the Chinese volleyball association.
Lai Yawen, former captain of the Chinese team at Atlanta 1996 and the team leader at Rio 2016, continues to be the team leader, according to the association.
The famous coaching troika for the Chinese women's volleyball will continue working together until Tokyo 2020.
"As chief coach, I will focus on team navigation and fostering young coaches," Lang said.
Lang, who just underwent a surgery in January, added that "with active rehabilitative training, I hope to recover completely as soon as possible."