1952: Soviet Union win double gold in Moscow
Three years after the successful premiere in Prague, Moscow hosted the second ever FIVB Volleyball World Championships from August 17-29, 1952. And changes were afoot: a women’s world champion was determined for the first time. Furthermore, the showdown was no longer an all-European affair, as teams from the Far and Middle East joined the party in the form of India (men and ladies), Israel (men) and Lebanon (men).
Above all, however, the days in Moscow were an outstanding international advertisement for the sport of volleyball. Over 250,000 spectators flocked to the matches, which, like the 1949 FIVB World Championships, were held outdoors. The final matches in Moscow’s Dynamo Stadium alone attracted 50,000 enthusiastic volleyball fans. And the fans of the home team had particular reason to celebrate: both titles went to the hosts from the Soviet Union, and without dropping a single set.
The men’s team, the nucleus of which was made up of the squad that won gold in 1949, defended its title in style. Stars like Sergey Nefedov, Mikhail Pimenov, Konstantin Reva, Vladimir Shagin and Alexey Yakushev ended the championship with eight victories, winning 24 sets and losing none. In a repeat of the final three years earlier, their arch-rivals from Czechoslovakia were swept aside 3:0 in the final on August 29, 1952. Bronze went to Bulgaria, resulting in an identical podium to that at the very first FIVB World Championship.
In total, eleven teams took part in the second men’s tournament. The historic first win for a non-European team came courtesy of Israel, who defeated Lebanon 3:0 in the preliminary round. The Eastern European teams’ dominance was clear for all to see again: Romania and Hungary finished fourth and fifth, with sixth-placed France the first team from Western Europe. The French, however, lost all five matches in the final round. The best non-European team was India in eighth, followed in ninth and tenth by Lebanon and Israel.
Eight teams lined up in the first championship for women and the premiere also featured a non-European team in India. The team from the subcontinent, however, was unable to win a single set in its seven matches. The competition was played in a round robin format. As in the men’s tournament, the Soviet Union were the hot favourites - after all, the team had won the inaugural European Championship the previous year. However, it was a lot closer than many had predicted, with the winner only confirmed after the final match against rivals Poland on August 29.
By the time they reached the final, both teams had won their matches against the eventual bronze medallists from Czechoslovakia, as well as Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, France and India. In the final match to determine the first Women’s World Champions, victory was never in doubt for the Soviet team, which included the legendary Aleksandra Chudina. The Soviet Union triumphed 3:0 against the Poles. This result meant that the Soviet ladies also came through their seven matches without the loss of a single set to crown the volleyball spectacle with double gold for the hosts.
Read about the first edition of the FIVB Volleyball World Championships by clicking on the link below.
1949: Soviet Union win inaugural World Championships