China beats Serbia, wins first volleyball gold medal since 2004

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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Known as the “Iron Hammer” during her storied playing career, Lang Ping led China’s volleyball team to their first Olympic gold medal since 2004 Saturday night.

China, which finished fourth in pool play, rebounded from losing the first set to defeat Serbia in four sets, 19-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23, in the gold medal match. Serbia was looking to make its first Olympic volleyball medal as an independent nation gold, but a Chinese team playing its best volleyball of the tournament at the right time kept that from happening.

China won last year’s world championships and they were ranked third in the world entering the tournament, so their winning gold isn’t a shock. But considering how they played early in pool play, resulting in their finishing fourth in their pool and drawing hosts Brazil in the quarterfinals, the gold medal is the end result of an impressive turnaround. Zhu Ting led the way offensively for China, racking up 24 kills on the night.

Lang, who won a gold medal as a player on China’s national team at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, is the first female head coach to lead a volleyball team to a gold medal in Olympic history.

Serbia won the first two Olympic medals in women’s team sports Saturday, with the volleyball team’s silver being earned hours after the basketball team took bronze.

Taking bronze in women’s volleyball was the U.S., which defeated the Netherlands in four sets Saturday afternoon.