Beijing, China, August 23, 2008 - Brazil Women became Olympic champions for the first time after beating USA 3-1 in the Olympic Volleyball Tournament gold-medal match on Saturday in Beijing. FIVB President Dr. Rubén Acosta awarded the players at the celebratory awarding ceremony after the seven-time FIVB World Grand Prix winners beat USA 25-15, 18-25, 25-13, 25-21 in 1 hour, 44 minutes in front of 13,000 spectators at Capital Indoor Stadium. USA won the silver medal for the second time after winning it in Los Angeles 1984, when their now Head Coach "Jenny" Ping Lang won gold as a player with China.
World No. 1 Brazil, who finally dropped a set in the tournament against a team when USA took the second, looked formidable approaching the event and throughout. Despite recently winning their seventh World Grand Prix title, though, the South Americans had never won the Olympics, FIVB World Championships or FIVB World Cup.
Japan, by the way, are the only team to win an Olympic Volleyball title without dropping a set when they claimed gold in Montreal in 1976.
Brazil's win Saturday win denied the USA the chance to sweep the Olympic gold medals in Volleyball and Beach Volleyball. USSA's Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers had won gold in the men's Beach Volleyball, while compatriots Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh did the same in the women's event.
In the bronze-medal match, 2004 Athens Olympic champions China won 25-16, 21-25, 25-13, 25-20 against three-time Olympic champions Cuba in front of 12,500 fans at Capital Indoor Stadium.
Brazil and USA will compete in the Men's gold-medal match on Sunday, August 24, at 12:00 local time at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing. The bronze-medal match between Italy and Russia will take before the final at 10:00 local time at the same venue.
It is the second time that the two finalists in the Men's and Women's tournament are the same. In 1968, USSR and Japan faced each other in both competitions.
There have been two occasions when the Men's and Women's tournaments have had the same country winners, with USSR winning both events in 1968 and 1980, when the Women beat East Germany and the Men downed Bulgaria.
Italian referee Massimo Menghini officiated his last match in the Women's gold-medal contest as first referee. Umit Sokullu was second referee.
USA 1 - Brazil 3
They jumped, they smashed and they won. Brazil, playing ballet-like delicate passing and samba-like quick smashing, turned the first clash between the two teams at Beijing Games into an artistic victory.
The two sides fought closely at the opener before 10-all, when Brazil, led by ace spikers Sheilla Castro and Fabiana Claudino, launched a stunning 10-1 run to establish a solid foundation for victory 20-11.
American wing spiker Logan Tom scored three points in row and Heather Bown added one more to pull back 15-23, but Paula Pequeno immediately responded with a kill spike and an ace serve to clinch the set for Brazil 25-15.
The U.S. found their rhythm after veteran setter Lindsey Berg was sent to the court and their stormy serves destroyed the Brazilian reception. Starting within 8-3, the Americans maintained winning momentum and enlarged the gap to 22-16. Danielle Scott-Arruda helped the U.S. take the match point 24-18 with a kill block and a quick middle court spike, but it was Tom who sealed the victory 25-18 with an unanswered spike.
The world No. 1, who sailed into the final without losing a single set, showed their true colors at the third set by strengthening blocking and serving. A decisive Brazil took the effortless set 25-13.
The fourth set had been a tit-for-tat battle before a 21-21 draw, when Kim Glass gave the advantage to Brazil with a serve error. Claudino and Castro helped the Brazil take the match points 24-21 with kill blocks, but it was American Tom who blew the ball out, as well as their chance to go further. Brazil won the match 25-21.
Bronze-medal match: China 3 Cuba 1
Just as their favorite song - "Sunshine Comes after Rainstorm" - goes, a smiling Chinese team rallied to remedy their semifinal loss with a consoling bronze medal at the Olympic Women's Volleyball on Saturday. Cuba finished their Beijing journey in fourth place. Inspired by the deafening cheers of the Chinese fans, the host won in the pride-saving match.
Due to a slow start, China opened the match with a dismal 2-6, when the ace spikers Wang Yimei and captain Feng Kun scored five points to help the host take over lead 7-6. Though the Cubans followed up closely, the Chinese managed to keep a slight advantage to 14-13. China launched a stunning 8-2 run to enlarge the gap to 22-15. Wang's service error helped Cuba pull back one point, but her two ace serves helped China take the set 25-16.
The Cuban spikers came back to life in the second set to establish an early led 9-4 with quick spikes of Nancy Carrillo and Yanelis Santos. China strived to catch up before a 17-all, when Carrillo and another high jumper Rosir Calderon broke the tie and crushed China's attempts to bounce back with attacks from the left flank and the middle court, 24-21 in favor of Cuba. Veteran captain Yumilka Ruiz sealed the set 25-21 with an unanswered spike.
China staged a brilliant attacking wave from the start of the following set with a 8-4 lead and extended the winning momentum to take the set 25-13. China took an early lead 10-5 and 15-10 in the fourth set, when Cuba surged back 20-21 with the astonishing performance of its wing hitter Calderon. But that was the furthest they could go. China clinched the meaning victory 25-20 with a spike of middle blocker Zhao Ruirui.
China Head Coach Zhonghe Chen said: "Cuba is our friend. Over the past years and even in this year, we had lots of matches together. In the preliminaries, we lost to them. At that time, the Cuban coach said that he hoped that we could meet in the final and compete for the gold. Unfortunately, both of us didn't make it to the gold-medal match. In today's match, we delivered a stable psychological state considering that the day before yesterday we lost to Brazil and many players cried. How to adjust their mental state was a big problem for us. Fortunately, we made it today. To beat the Cuban team is a tough job. But today they were too eager to win, so they made too many mistakes. They didn't deliver their best performance."
Women's final standings
1 Brazil (gold medal)
2 USA (silver medal)
3 China (bronze medal)
Joint 5: Italy, Japan, Russia, Serbia
Joint 9: Kazakhstan, Poland
Joint 11: Algeria, Venezuela
Men's finals: Sunday, August 24
10:00 Bronze-medal match, Russia-Italy, Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing
12:00 Gold-medal match, Brazil-USA, Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing
Volleyball legend Andrea Zorzi is blogging from Beijing with his popular "Follow Me" blog, linked to the FIVB website.