Article ＿ Chen Wanjing
Photos ＿ Li Tinghuan, Lin Jiaxin, Jimmy King Talent Agency
1. Since high school, these twins have undergone strict professional training, which has resulted in Liu Hong-Jie attaining volleyball skill and attitude that are beyond his years. (Photo: Jimmy King Talent Agency)
“Before becoming my partner on the court, _ghting shoulder to shoulder, you were my closest family member and my best friend.” Referred to as the “best-ever men’s volleyball twins in Taiwan,” Liu Hung-Min (劉鴻敏) and Liu Hong-Jie (劉鴻杰) posted this emotional quote on their Facebook Fans page. What is surprising is that on the court they are forceful in striking the ball and blocking, but off the court they are not very talkative. That is because they understand each other all too well. With an exchange of glances, they know what each other is thinking.
The whole of 2015 can be said to have been a wondrous journey for the Chinese Taipei men’s volleyball team. From winning a bronze medal at the Asian Men’s U23 Volleyball Championship, to taking fourth place at the 2015 Summer Universiade in Gwangju, sixth place at the Asian Volleyball Championship, and the AVC Club Volleyball Championship Cup for the first time in team history, the team’s achievements have excited a rare volleyball fever in Taiwan, and much attention has been focused on the team members. Among them, brothers Hung-Min and Hong-Jie are not only outstanding players, but also tall and good-looking, especially attracting the attention of female fans. After each game, there is often a crowd of female fans waiting outside the venue looking to have a photo taken with them, or to ask for their autographs.
2. Brothers Liu Hung-Min (left) and Liu Hong-Jie (right) demonstrate great tacit understanding when playing volleyball together. They have led the Chinese Taipei men’s volleyball team to its best-ever results. (Photo: Lin Jiaxin)
Intensive Training, Accumulating Competitive Strength
Speaking of their volleyball journey, Hung-Min recalls that as a fourth grader at Yingge Elementary School (鶯歌國小), one day he dropped off some documents at the academic affairs office. As chance would have it, he ran into the volleyball coach. When the coach saw that he was already 160 centimeters tall, he was asked to try out for the team. After playing volleyball for a full day, he decided that it was fun, and upon returning home asked his brother Hong-Jie to join in. From that time to this, the two have played on the same team.
These twins, of indigenous Amis blood, possess strong features and an electric gaze. They appear to be cut from almost the exact same mold, and are closely similar in terms of build and hairstyle. Hong-Jie shows a childhood photograph of himself and his brother on his cellphone, wearing identical outfits. Even he cannot easily distinguish between them. This has led to some interesting mix-ups during their volleyball career. The two hold different positions – Hung-Min is the outside spiker, and Hong-Jie is the middle blocker. At a World School Volleyball Championship match, a referee mistakenly penalized them for switching positions. The coach reminded the official that they are identical twins, and the deducted points were restored.
When they were in high school, they underwent intensive, professional team training, waking up at 5 a.m. each day for practice. For half a year, they did not take time off to return home on weekends, instead traveling between their dormitory and the volleyball court. Hung-Min says that there was a time when their coach replaced the volleyball with a basketball, to practice serves and setting techniques. As it was much heavier than a volleyball, it required more effort to hit, and his hands hurt so much that it was hard for him to sleep. That was a very difficult period; however, when allowed to once again use a volleyball, he found that his finger strength had increased, which made him realize that his coach had given this exercise great thought. As Hong-Jie thinks back on those days, he notes that although the coach was extremely strict, this was the person who influenced him the most. Due to that time of strict training, he learned to be independent early on, and to work as part of a team. Compared with other students of his age, he has a more settled personality, and understands how to respect others.
3. Liu Hung-Min, the team‘s outside spiker, hopes that fans will attend in large numbers to cheer on the Chinese Taipei men‘s volleyball team. (Photo: Jimmy King Talent Agency)
High Level of Tacit Understanding, Repeated Stellar Success
Due to the mental telepathy that exists among twins, and more than a decade of playing on the same team, the two have an extremely high level of tacit understanding. Working together, they have won the High School Volleyball League (HVL) and University Volleyball League (UVL) gold cups, and have been named to the national representative team, competing shoulder to shoulder. Last year, at the Summer Universiade in Gwangju, Korea, the Chinese Taipei team overcame many difficulties to claim six consecutive victories and advance. During the quarter finals, the team had the misfortune of going up against the Ukrainian team. In the fifh set, their fortunes took a turn for the worse. The twins agree that this has been their most regrettable competition outcome to date. Their ticket to the finals and the gold medal was within reach, but they were unable to clinch it. Hong-Jie says that, “It is because we wanted to win too much!” In the preliminary contests they played well, and the entire team was very excited. Their rise in the rankings led to increasing media attention, and that is when the pressure and the fear of failure began to build. They lost their coordination, and thus their opportunity for victory.
The Chinese Taipei men’s volleyball team had in the past achieved a Universiade ranking of 14th. Last year’s achievement was thus the best in team history. Following that, surpassing expectations, they won all eight contests to clinch the AVC Club Volleyball Championship Cup. Hung-Min believes that the team’s unity was the key to winning the final against Qatar. Moreover, on that day the TPEC Gymnasium (天母體育館) in Tianmu (天母) was filled with cheering fans. That gave a huge boost to the players’ morale, and they were ecstatic to win this victory at home.
Sparing No Effort, Enjoying the Competition
Speaking of the competition process, the normally quiet brothers become very talkative. But when asked to share what they most want to say to one another, they quickly become silent again. “No. We won’t say something nauseating. It’s enough that we know what each other is thinking,” they say. To allow their fans to get to know them better, Hung-Min plays the role of big brother. He says that, “In comparison, other players are alone. We are very fortunate that we have someone we can rely on for mutual support.”
Both athletes are enrolled at National Taiwan Normal University (國立台灣師範大學). They have been chosen for the Chinese Taipei team that will compete at the 2017 Taipei Summer Universiade, and although they have not yet set a specific objective, they plan to give their all while happily enjoying each match. A_er the disappointment of the Summer Universiade in Korea, they expect that as next year’s Summer Universiade will be held in Taipei there will be many fans in attendance to cheer on the Chinese Taipei men’s volleyball team, and they plan to put this home-court advantage to full use, bringing their A game.
Men’s Volleyball Twin Powerhouses Fact File
Liu Hung-Min (outside spiker), Liu Hong-Jie (middle blocker)
Date of birth: November 10th
Height: 190 centimeters
Weight: 85 kilograms
Awards and Achievements:
● 2010, 2011 academic years / HVL Class A champions (National Overseas Chinese Senior High School [華僑高中] )
● 2012, 2013, 2014 academic years / UVL champions (National Taiwan Normal University)
● 2015 / Asian Men’s U23 Volleyball Championship bronze medal (Liu Hung-Min honored with Best Spiker Award)
● 2015 / 4th place, Summer Universiade in Gwangju
● 2015 / 6th place, Asian Volleyball Championship
● 2015 / AVC Club Volleyball Championship Cup (Liu Hung-Min honored with Best Spiker Award)