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1960: Volleyball fever in Brazil, both World Championship titles go to the Soviet Union again

The Soviet Union’s men were never truly challenged in their quest to regain the title in 1960
Lausanne, Switzerland, June 5, 2014 - The two FIVB World Championships are the highlights of the year. In the run-up to the title showdowns for the men in Poland (August 30 to September 21) and for the women in Italy (September 23 to October 12), each week we take a look back at the stories to emerge from previous competitions. In part four, we look at the 1960 FIVB World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, the first of these highlights to be held outside Europe.

It goes without saying that there were once again plenty of new things to talk about at the fourth staging of the FIVB World Championships. For instance, the competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from October 28 to November 15, 1960, was the first World Championship ever to be held outside Europe.

It also marked the first time teams from other continents outnumbered the European teams. And that despite India, Mexico and Dominican Republic withdrawing at the last minute. In the end, 14 men’s and ten women’s teams took to the courts in Brazil. The Soviet Union won both titles to restore the old balance of power – sweet revenge after the men had been dethroned by Czechoslovakia four years earlier in Paris.

The European teams – including Germany, who had traveled to the tournament by ship – found the alien climate in Copacabana, with its tropical heat and sudden downpours, particularly uncomfortable. However, the temperature in the large sport arena adjacent to the world-famous Maracana stadium was perfect. And that despite crowds of up to 20,000 passionate fans flocking to watch the action. The World Championship truly ignited the passion for volleyball in South America – never before had the continent witnessed such impressive viewing figures.

And the fans had plenty to cheer about too, as the Brazilian men finished fifth, making them the best-placed team behind the dominant outfits from Eastern Europe. The Selecao won four matches in the final round of the top ten teams and even managed to take a set off the dominant Soviet Union's team. It was the start of a major rivalry, which still dominates the volleyball world today – now with the successor state Russia.

The Soviet Union’s men were never truly challenged in their quest to regain the title in 1960, winning all eleven of their matches over the course of the tournament. This was their third title in four World Championships. Particularly striking was the dramatically improved technique of the rejuvenated Soviet team, who no longer relied solely on their power game right from the word go. The outstanding players in the squad assembled around playmaker Gerogy Mondzolevski were top spiker Ivans Bugajenkovs and the technically impressive Yuri Chesnokov and Yuriy Poyarkov. The latter continued to play for his country right through to the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

Czechoslovakia were defeated 3:0 in the deciding match, meaning the 1956 World Champions had to settle for silver. Bronze went to Romania, who also boasted the player of the tournament in Stefan Roman. The fifth-placed Brazilians, USA (seventh) and Japan (eighth) all impressed.

Japan were the surprise package in the women’s competition, claiming the silver medal on their FIVB World Championship debut. The women from the Far East dazzled with their acrobatic, cat-like defence and fast-paced attacking game. This would go on to hugely influence the way modern volleyball was to develop over the next years. However, one opponent was simply too big. Japan lost 1:3 to the Soviet Union, who won their third title at the third Women’s World Championship.

The signs were there that the champions’ superiority was on the wane, however: the team that had until that point been so utterly dominant trailed the fourth-placed Poles 0:1 and 1:2 before eventually coming through to win 3:2. The Soviet team was led for the last time by 37-year-old Aleksandra Chudina, who called time on her international career after the competition. The MVP was 22-year-old Lyudmila Buldakova, who emerged as a real star at these World Championships. Bronze went to Czechoslovakia, with the hosts from Brazil ending up fifth. The Brazilians, however, certainly deserved a gold medal for staging such an impressive competition.
Read more about previous editions of the FIVB Volleyball World Championships by clicking on the links below.

1956: Czechoslovakia claim trophy in Paris
1952: Soviet Union win double gold in Moscow
1949: Soviet Union win inaugural World Championships


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