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There is little doubt that Lang Ping is one of volleyball's greats. The Tianjin-born "Iron Hammer" won two Women's World Cups, one World Championship, and an Olympic Games gold medal as a player before becoming a widely-celebrated coach. When she led the Chinese women's team to gold at Rio 2016, she became the first person to win gold as both a player and a coach.

Lang was first selected for the Chinese national team in 1978, aged 18. Quickly becoming a mainstay of the team, the outside hitter led the Chinese team to triumph at four consecutive international championships – the 1981 and 1985 World Cups, the 1982 World Championship, and the 1984 Olympic Games. She first retired from playing in 1986, moving to the U.S. to study and coach at the University of New Mexico, but made a short return to the court a few years later during which she won World Championship silver in 1990.

Her first spell in charge as head coach of the Chinese team brought a World Cup bronze and World Championship and Olympic silver, earmarking her legacy as a cultural icon throughout the country. Many older Chinese still associate her name with the country's booming sports prowess in the early 1980s.

Lang took up a position with the U.S. national team in 2005, having agonised over the decision for three months. Public debate was fierce in China, but ultimately Lang accepted the job to be closer to her American-born daughter. "Now China's volleyball coaches can be 'exported' to coach in the U.S., a traditional sports power, it's an honour," she said. "There are many foreign coaches in China, so what's so odd about Chinese coaching foreign teams?" 

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