Kim Yeon-koung named world's best volleyball player of 2021
Korean volleyball star Kim Yeon-koung was named the best player of 2021 by Volleyball World, recognizing her role in leading Korea to a fourth-place finish at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and her efforts in both the Korean and Chinese leagues.
"2021 was a milestone year for Kim," the article posted on the website of Volleyball World, a media organization affiliated with the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), noted. "It was the year during which she retired from the national team, 17 seasons after she debuted for Korea in 2005.
"It was the year she led her country through their third consecutive Olympic participation and to her second Olympic final four. It was the year her social media followers on both Instagram and YouTube reached the one-million mark."
Last year was a packed one for Kim. After playing her second season with the Incheon Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders from October 2020 to April last year, Kim played the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Nations League from May to July, then jetted off to Tokyo to captain Korea at the Olympics for a third time, then retired from the national team and moved to Chinese club Shanghai Ubest.
The first time Kim wore the Taeguk mark was in 2004 at the Asian Junior Women's Volleyball Championship. Then, in 2005, when she was still a student at Suwon Hanil Girls High School, Kim was called up for her first senior match at the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup.
The rest is history. Kim has appeared at three Olympics, four Asian Games and three World Championships with the national team, captaining it throughout many of those tournaments.
Away from international events, it quickly became clear that Kim may be the greatest volleyball player Korea has ever produced, and her career took her to play in far more competitive leagues in China and Turkey. The more she learned playing for high-powered teams around the world, the more Kim brought back to the Korean volleyball team.
Last year, at the 2021 Volleyball Nations League, Kim scored a total of 196 points in total. And though Korea finished in 15th place, it seemed to have served the national team as a good tune up before the Olympics because Team Korea's performance at the Tokyo Games told a different story.
On the big stage, Team Korea stunned fans with a fourth-place finish despite entering the tournament as underdogs.
Going into the Games, Korea was seen as an underdog with little chance of reaching the semifinals. Not only was Korea ranked 13th in the world, the third-lowest ranked team at the Olympics, but it was also coming back from a disappointing second-to-last finish at the Volleyball Nations League in June.
Kim and the 11 other members of the Korean squad quickly became fan favorites, battling their way through eight matches against predominantly higher-ranked teams to reach the bronze medal match. The team arrived home without any silverware, but with little doubt in fans' minds that they had given it all they had.
And of course there was captain Kim, who somehow managed to be everywhere at all times.
Not only was Kim the second-best scorer of the entire Games after Tijana Boskovic of Serbia but Kim also became the first player to score more than 30 points in four matches at the Olympics. At the same time, the numbers show that it has been a long journey, especially for her, having played the entirety of six Olympic matches, resting only during two: The preliminary matches against Brazil and Serbia, where she sat out only the third set.
After the Games, Kim officially retired from the national team on Aug. 12 of 2021 after dedicating the best part of 20 years to the Korean national team but Kim's exceptional performance carried into her stint in China, where she led the scoring in most of Shanghai Bright Ubest's matches. Shanghai finished third in the Chinese Volleyball Super League season.
Adding on to her performance, Kim's popularity last year made her the first volleyball player with more than one million subscribers on her YouTube channel and, according to some reports, the most tweeted female athlete in the world in 2021.
Kim is currently in Korea after rounding off her second Chinese Volleyball Super League season with Shanghai Ubest.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]