China's players attend the awarding ceremony for the women's final of Volleyball at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 20. China won the gold medal (XINHUA)
When Chinese women's volleyball team took on Serbia for the Olympic title, 70 percent of Chinese families watched live broadcast on TV, easily beating the audience rating for Lunar New Year Gala.
As team captain Hui Ruoqi hit a powerful spike to seal it 19-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23 on the night of August 20 in Rio, applause and cheers almost blew off the roof of Maracanazinho, which is at the side of the iconic Maracana stadium.
Media headlines hailed the victory that brought the Chinese women volleyball back to the Olympic glory after 12 years, paying tribute to legendary head coach Jenny Lang Ping and her 12 players. China's all-important news program Xinwen Lianbo dedicated seven of 30 minutes to relive the story.
"This team has an average age of 24. You can beat them, but you can never break them," said the presenter.
"Thank you Lang Ping for giving us a miracle," said a post on China's top portal Sina.com. Like the Brazilians who eventually won most coveted soccer gold medal, the volleyball title ensured a perfect ending for the Chinese delegation. The team started as underdogs and ended up as champions.
Pushed to the fourth place in group, China met the powerful and two-time Olympic champions Brazil who had unreserved support from capacity home fans in the quarterfinals.
When almost no one believed they could win, the Chinese team came rallied from one set down to beat the hosts 3-2 before they avenged their group loss on the Netherlands in the semifinals.
Among all the Chinese sports teams, the women's volleyball remain the most special one, whose victories had fueled Chinese confidence in the 1980s and still represent the best things that sports can offer to the Chinese: perseverance, courage and unity.
In her playing days, Lang Ping was the embodiment of the "Chinese women's volleyball spirit" as she, dubbed Iron Hammer for her cannon spikes, along with her teammates, won a volleyball grand slam of Olympic Games, World Cup, and world championship in the 1980s when China just started to reform and open up.
They endured extremely arduous training and displayed "never say die" spirit en route to becoming world champions, which made the Chinese believe the country, recovering from political turmoils at that time, could be as strong in the world one day as the volleyball players are in sports.
After over 30 years of reform and opening up nowadays, China believes the "women's volleyball spirit" is never outdated.
"My mom cried when I told her about Lang Ping's team's victory in Rio. She recalled her young days and said Lang was a great player. Now she is a great coach," wrote an internet user.
"My father leapt in the air when China won. He told me with tears in his eyes that great spirit has been with the Chinese volleyball team for years," wrote another.
(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2016)