You’re not anyone in indoor volleyball unless you have a suitable moniker. Iron Hammer and Caribbean Girls are nicknames of some of the greats in the women’s game but we’ll get to that.
Ahead of the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship taking place in dual host countries, Netherlands and Poland starting Friday 23 September, Olympics.com showcases the best women in the game by virtue of categories such as most popular, fastest spike, and, of course, the GOAT.
Let’s start with arguably, the greatest of all time.
Best female volleyballer of all time?
With three Olympic gold medals (1992, 1996, 2000) and two world championships (1994, 1998) Cuba’s Regla Torres is regularly cited as the women’s volleyball GOAT.
Torres was named best female player of the 20th century by world governing body FIVB in 2001 when she was just 26.
An instrumental part of the unstoppable Cuban women’s team of the 1990s, nicknamed The Caribbean Girls, Torres won her first Olympic title at 17 years old at Barcelona 1992. Consecutive golds followed at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. World titles were claimed in 1994 and 1998.
“Our motivation for winning was our country,” said Torres in an interview with Olympics.com (watch below). “Cubans love sports, and our victories brought joy to our people.”
Fastest spike in volleyball for women?
Paola Egonu currently currently holds the women’s world record for spike speed of 112.7 km/h. The Italian hit the speedy mark in the first set of the Volleyball Nations League final against Brazil in July 2022.
Top 5 fastest spikes in women’s volleyball
- Paola Egonu (Italy) – 112.7 km/h (vs Brazil, 2022)
- Tijana Bošković (Serbia) – 110.3 km/h (vs Turkey, 2021)
- Kiera Van Ryk (Canada) – 108.1 km/h (vs. USA, 2021)
- Tijana Bošković (Serbia) – 107.5 km/h (vs Russia, 2021)
- Tandara Caixeta (Brazil) – 106.9 km/h (vs People’s Republic of China, 2018)
Highest vertical jump?
Arguably, the highest vertical jump was achieved by Egonu, who had a 344cm spike reach – the highest point an athlete can reach in the air after a running vertical jump.
That makes the 339cm mark of now-retired Mireya Luis even more impressive as the Cuban is not even 6ft tall topping out at 5ft 9ins (175cm), while the Italian is 6ft 4ins (1.93m).
Luis earned numerous “best scorer”, “best spiker” and “best player” awards at world, Olympic and continental championships including best spiker of the 1994 World Championship and MVP at two World Cups, in 1989 and 1995 along with her three Olympic gold medals.
Most famous female volleyball player
Kim, who retired in August 2021, frequently posts videos sharing her daily life with fans and as of September 2022, has more than 1.3m fans tuning in.
The 34-year-old 6ft 4ins (192cm) player was the first volleyballer to reach the milestone, which she has since replicated on Instagram.
Despite having no world championship or Olympic medals to her name, Kim was so good at her debut Games at London 2012 that she was voted Most Valuable Player despite her team coming fourth.
Most MVP awards in women’s volleyball
Cuba’s Regla Torres is the only player to have been voted MVP at two editions of the World Championship, in 1994 and 1998. Tijana Bošković was the MVP at the last edition in 2018.
The Soviet Union dominate the most successful players on the World Championships list, with Lyudmilla Buldakova winning three golds and one silver. The only two non-Soviets on the top 10 list are Cuba’s Mireya Luis and Japan’s Matsumura Katsumi, who both have two golds and one silver.
The Soviets also top the Olympic medal table for women with four golds. People’s Republic of China and Cuba are both three-time Olympic champions and Japan and Brazil both won twice. The USA have one title to their name, claiming the title for the first time last summer at Tokyo 2020.
No player has won the Olympic MVP award twice.
Fastest serve at the Olympic Games
Italy’s Paola Egonu holds the Olympic record for fastest serve, clocking 101km/h in a match against the USA at Rio 2016.
Egonu was not the first player in Olympic history to break the 100km/h mark. Serbia’s Bošković unleashed a 100km/h rocket earlier the same day against People’s Republic of China.
One of the bearers of the Olympic Flag at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the 23-year-old will be hoping her side can continue the form that saw them claim the Volleyball Nations League title in July for the first time.
The Iron Hammer, China’s Lang Ping, is the first and only woman to become Olympic champion as both player and coach.
The nickname indicates the strength of her style of play and it was Lang’s leadership skills as captain that steered her nation to a first ever Olympic gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in which she was also voted MVP.
As head coach of the Chinese national team Lang guided the squad to the silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and replicated the position at the 1998 World Championship in Japan.
She became coach of the US National Team in 2005, before facing off against China at Beijing 2008. The match was attended by Chinese and US presidents, Hu Jintao and George W. Bush, who saw the US come out on top 3-2.
The US went on to win the silver medal, losing to Brazil in the finals 3–1.
After becoming the head coach of the China women’s national volleyball team for the second time in 2013, Lang led her side to win gold at Rio 2016.
Highest ranked women’s teams in 2022
From FIVB World Rankings as at 21 September 2022
1. United States
4. People’s Republic of China