It’s been two years since the “volleyball queen” Kim Yeon-kyung (35, Heungkuk Life) announced her retirement from the national team. But her juniors still miss her.
The women’s national team, led by head coach Cesar Hernandez, will compete at the 2023 Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, from May 30 to June 6. Once again, the team will have to fill the void left by Kim Yeon-kyung.스포츠토토
The team has been at the Jincheon National Athletes’ Village in North Chungcheong Province since June 6 to prepare for the tournament. An open training session at the athletes’ village on Sunday showed the players’ nostalgia for Kim Yeon-kyung.
Kim returned her flag after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 2021. During her 15 years with the national team, starting in 2006, she led South Korean women’s volleyball to glorious moments, including the London 2012 Olympics and Tokyo 2020 quarterfinals.
Since then, the national team has naturally undergone a generational change, which has been accompanied by extreme growing pains. Since Cesar Hernandez took the helm, the team has posted a disastrous 1-28 record in international competition.
In particular, the team has suffered two straight defeats in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL). The national team is in the midst of a 27-match losing streak in the VNL, dating back to 2021.
For the 2023 VNL, Kim joined the team not as a player but as an advisor. She served as an advisor and support for the entire team, including mentoring players and providing business support for coaches and support staff.
Although the team finished the tournament without a single win, Kim’s support was invaluable to the juniors. Park Jung-ah (Pepper Savings Bank), who inherited the armband from Kim, said, “(Kim) always helped us a lot,” and thanked her for “teaching us a lot of things, from the characteristics of foreign players to how to approach the game.”
When asked by the press what they would like to learn from Kim as a captain and what they shouldn’t, they responded with respect. Park said, “I want to learn from Yeon-kyung about everything from lifestyle to body care,” and gave her a thumbs up, saying, “She doesn’t make me think that I shouldn’t learn.”
Kang So-hwi (GS Caltex) stepped in as the national team’s ace after Kim’s retirement, and he admitted that the pressure was “definitely more than playing in the domestic league”. However, he smiles, “I think that if I can work together with my teammates and improve our organization, we will have better results.”
When asked if he wished he could see Kim Yeon-kyung on the court again, Kang So-hwi laughed, saying, “When I was struggling in the VNL, I was thinking, ‘How would Yeon-kyung face such a strong opponent? “I won a lot of matches because of her. It made me respect her even more.”
Kim is no longer able to join her on the court in a national team uniform. But Kang is confident that she can lead a rebound without Kim at the Asian Championships.
“There are definitely a lot of physical differences with European and American players, and I think we need to be confident and push hard for Korea to win in Asia,” Kang So-hwi said. It will be interesting to see if the team can bounce back from their VNL defeat at the Asian Championships.