By Anthony Boadle | RIO DE JANEIRO
China's young women's volleyball team overcame a surging Serbian side on Saturday in four sets to take their country's third Olympic gold medal in the sport.
Serbia was competing for the first time for an Olympic medal and had beaten China in the preliminary round, but the Asian powerhouse prevailed in the final by 19-25 25-17 25-22 25-23.
The United States won bronze earlier on Saturday after beating the Netherlands, a consolation for the world's top-ranked team in their pursuit of an elusive gold.
China, coached by former top player Lang Ping, last won the gold medal in Athens in 2004. They won their first gold in Los Angeles in 1984 when Lang was on the team.
"Before the tournament we never thought we could win the gold," Lang, who coached the United States to a silver medal in 2008, told reporters after the match. "I think we were lucky.
"Our young players did not play well at the beginning, but they did at the important moment."
Serbia won the opening set with powerful serves and spikes by top scorer Brankica Mihajlovic, but China took control of the match in the key third set.
Serbia beat off an 8-point run by China and went down to an unstoppable spike by top Chinese scorer Zhu Ting.
Serbia eliminated Russia in the quarter-finals and then dispatched the favorites, the United States, from the Rio Games on Thursday in a five-set upset when the U.S. team lost their top scorer Foluke Akinradewo to a leg injury.
With their star middle blocker back on the court on Saturday, the Americans beat the Dutch women 25-23 25-27 25-22 25-19 in the bronze medal match.
Akinradewo said some therapy on her left leg put her back in competition for the bronze medal game, as she shed a tear over missing another opportunity to capture the gold.
"That's what we want, of course. No team comes here not wanting to win the gold," she told Reuters. "But this bronze is just as special for me because we were able to fight back from a disappointing loss. We were so close," she said.
The United States reached the finals in the two previous Olympics in London and Beijing, but were defeated by Brazil both times.
At the Beijing Olympics, the U.S. team coached by Lang beat China in the semi-final, cementing her reputation as one of the best women's volleyball coaches.
Lang, 55, won her second gold on Saturday, this time as the coach of young crop of Chinese athletes that had a shaky start in Rio with losses to the Netherlands and Serbia.
"With a young team, you never know. One day is great, the next is not," Lang said. "We have to be patient and just had to go one game at a time.
"I am very happy for the young girls. They trained so hard."
(Editing by Bill Rigby/Meredith Mazzilli/Sudipto Ganguly; Source: Reuters)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 21, 2016 – With the dust still to settle on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, attention is already shifting to Tokyo 2020 -now 1433 days out, after the Olympic Flag was returned tonight from Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes to International Olympic Committe (IOC) President Thomas Bach, who in turn handed it over to Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike.
The flag handover was a segment in the Closing Ceremony of Rio 2016 tonight at the iconic Maracana Stadium, right next to the legendary Maracanazinho which hosted the volleyball at these Olympic Games.
Tokyo sees the Olympic Games return there after they were first hosted in the Japanese capital in 1964. For volleyball especially there is special significance and emotion, as it was in Tokyo 1964 that the sport was first officially introduced to the Olympic Programme.
The Games of the XXXII Olympiad will begin on Friday 24 July with the Opening Ceremony and wrap up on Sunday 9 August when the Olympic Flame will be extinguished and the Olympic Flag handed over to the organisers of the 2024 Games. Both the Opening and the Closing Ceremonies will be held at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, which is undergoing an extensive facelift for the event.
Both volleyball and beach volleyball venues will be within the Tokyo Bay Zone, together with 20 more facilities for a variety of different sports.
The indoor competition will be held at the to-be-built Ariake Arena, designed for 12,000 spectators, on area reclaimed from the sea. The Ariake area will also host cycling, gymnastics and tennis at Tokyo 2020.
Beach volleyball will be played in a temporary, 12,000-capacity arena in Shiokaze Park, with a bakdrop of the iconic Rainbow Bridge -a double-decker suspension bridge linking Shibaura Pier with the Odaiba waterfront development. The Beach Volleyball Arena will be about three kilometres southest of Ariake Arena.
Shiokaze Park will also be home to the triathlon and road cycling events of Tokyo 2020.
Tokyo, the first Asian city to host the competition for a second time, has been preparing for the 2020 Olympics since 7 September 2013, when it was awarded the Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its Session in Buenos Aires. Tokyo outbid the other two candidates of Madrid and Istanbul.
Looking even further ahead, the hosts of the 2024 Olympic Games will become known on 13 September 2017 at the IOC Session in Lima. Budapest, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome are in the running.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 21, 2016 – Brazil gave a lot of joy to the home crowd by winning the men’s volleyball gold medal of Rio 2016 Olympic Games with a straight-set 3-0 (25-22, 28-26, 26-24) victory over Italy in front of a delirious full house at Maracanazinho on Sunday.
It was the first straight-set victory in a men’s Olympic final since Sydney 2000 when Yugoslavia beat Russia 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-20) in just 1 hour and 9 minutes.
After coming up short in the last two editions of the Olympics as runners-up in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, the Brazilians captured their third gold medal in the history of the competition. They also finished at the top of the podium in Barcelona 1992 and Athens 2004 and got a silver medal in Los Angeles 1984.
Italy had to settle for their third silver medal to go with three bronzes. The Italians also finished second in Atlanta 1996 and Athens. They occupied the third slot in Los Angeles, Sydney 2000 and London.
Wallace de Souza, the tournament leading scorer with 147 points, carried most of the load of the Brazilian offence with a match-high 20 points, followed by Luis Felipe Fonteles with 11, including the final point with his block against Ivan Zaytsev. Mauricio de Souza and Lucas Saatkamp contributed 8 and 7 points, respectively, in the victory.
Italy’s Zaytsev and Osmany Juantorena finished with 17 and 14 points, respectively, in the loss.
In the first set, Fonteles scored with two spikes around block by Saatkamp and Wallace’s ace to give Brazil a four-point lead 16-12. Italy came within one-point distance 22-21 via two opponent errors, but Lucarelli’s ace restored order and Brazil claimed the set 25-22 when Zaytsev faulted with his serve.
Juantorena put Italy in the lead 4-1 with two spikes and one ace in the second set. Brazil came back to tie the score at 9-all with the block by Wallace against Zaytzev. Both teams kept battling point after point. Brazil broke the tie at 22-all with Wallace’s spike and fault by Juantorena but gave back the lead with two errors. Then Wallace blocked Zaytsev and Mauricio de Souza served a winner for the 28-26 in favour of Brazil.
The third set was also an intense battle of titans point by point. At 24-all, Lucas scored with a big spike and then Fonteles blocked Zaytzev for the Olympic gold medal.