USA, with legendary Karch Kiraly to the fore, won the second of
back-to-back Olympic golds In Seoul
China won the women’s title in Los Angeles on their debut
appearance in the Olympic Games
RIO 2016 OLYMPIC GAMES
VOLLEYBALL MEDIA GUIDE
Six of the top eight men’s teams at the 1978 World Championship
were in Moscow before USSR added the Olympic title to their World
Japan’s men finally broke their gold-medal duck in Munich as they
survived a two-set deficit to beat Bulgaria in the final
Poland’s endurance in their semifinal victory over Japan and final
win over the USSR will forever encapsulate the Montreal Games
Three-time Olympic champions USSR came into the Seoul
Games through the “back door.”After Africa declined to enter
a team, a qualification tournament was held and won by USSR.
With a field that included reigning world and Olympic
champions China and two-time Olympic champions Japan,
the competition in Seoul was always going to be fierce. And
there was Peru, who had been on the podium at the 1982 and
1986 World Championships and were led by Cecilia Tait and
Denise Fajardo, among the best female players in the world.
USSR and Peru reached the final and it was a real nail-biter.
Peru took the first two sets, and led 12-6 in the third, just
three points from their country’s second-ever Olympic gold
medal. Soviet coach Nicolai Karpol called a timeout and
made three changes. He then watched his team come from
behind to win the third set, then the fourth and take the
first six points of the fifth. But Peru were not finished. They
clawed their way back to 7-7, fell behind again, then went
in front 15-14. But after both teams had fought off match
points it was the Soviet Union who prevailed, 3-2 (10-15,
12-15, 15-13, 15-7, 17-15). China took the bronze medal
from Japan in straight sets.
In the men’s event, defending champions USA, led by the
peerless Karch Kiraly, came through the pool phase unbeaten
despite being taken to five sets by Argentina (who eventually
finished third after beating Brazil in a marathon bronze-
medal match that lasted three hours and 10 minutes). After
dropping the first set of the final, USA proved too powerful
for USSR, winning 3-1 (13-15, 15-10, 15-4, 15-8).
Another boycott meant the Soviet Union’s remarkable
run of finishing first or second in every Olympic women’s
tournament came to an end at the 1984 Los Angeles
Games. China happily took up the slack.
China had beaten USA seven times out of eight prior to the
Games, but on their Olympic debut their lack of experience
went against them and they lost to their hosts in four sets
in the pool phase. Four nights later, however, the same two
teams prepared to contest the final. As the Chinese team
entered the arena, their star spiker Lang Ping spotted the
US coach and three of his players already wearing gold
medals. “Let’s take those medals from around their necks,”
she said to her teammates, and a supreme display saw
China do just that, winning in straight sets. Twenty-four
years later China were the hosts, and Lang Ping was the
women’s coach – for the USA!
The men’s tournament was more affected by the boycott,
with world champions USSR, Bulgaria, Cuba and Poland
all missing. However, hosts USA and the rising Brazilians
and Italians took full advantage of the situation. USA had
beaten USSR four times in a row before the Games – all
in the Soviet Union – and were on a 24-match winning
streak, so they were hot favourites to end their lack of
Olympic success. In the fourth of their group matches they
succumbed to Brazil, but in the final they turned the tables
to win 3-0 (15-6, 15-6, 15-7), while Italy beat Canada for
Prior to 1980, USSR had reached every Olympic volleyball
final except one. With many teams boycotting the Moscow
Games, the stage was set for more Soviet success. Ten
men’s and eight women’s teams took part in 1980.
Despite the boycott, six of the top eight men’s teams at
the 1978 World Championship were in Moscow. World
champions USSR and Olympic champions Poland had no
problems winning their pools. USSR then beat Romania in
straight sets in the semis, but Poland were surprised by
Bulgaria. USSR won the final 3-1, conceding a set for only
the second time. Romania took the bronze.
With China, Japan, Korea and USA missing from the
women’s competition due to the boycott, Nikolai Karpol’s
Soviet team cruised to gold, beating East Germany 3-1 in
the final. Bulgaria, invited to take part at the 11
the bronze medal on their debut.
Volleyball at the Montreal Olympics was a revelation for the
Canadian public. What had been for most an occasional
pastime became a passion during the Games as 15,602
witnessed Poland take the men’s title and Japan the women’s.
The performance of the Polish men was stunning. Their
semifinal win over Japan lasted two hours and 23 minutes
and they had to play for two hours and 26 minutes to beat
USSR in the final the next day. Prior to the final, USSR had
not dropped a set. The pivotal moment came with the
Soviets leading 2-1 and 15-14 in the fourth. Polish star
Tomasz Wojtowicz smashed a long spike from behind the
10-foot line and Poland went on to take the set 19-17 and
the match 3-2 (11-15, 15-13, 12-15, 19-17, 15-7). Cuba
impressed taking the bronze.
The women’s final paired Japan and the Soviet Union
for the fourth straight time. Led by Takako Shirai, Japan
dominated. Bronze medallists South Korea were the only
team to reach double figures in a set against Japan, who
won the final 3-0 (15-7, 15-8, 15-2).
At Munich, in volleyball’s third Olympics, it was “third time
lucky” for the Japanese men, following their bronze medal
in 1964 and silver in 1968 as a total of 12 men’s and eight
women’s teams participated.
Inspired by talismanic coach Yasutaka Matsudaira and
the magical hands of playmaker Katsutoshi Nekoda, they
moved smoothly through to the semifinals, where they
lost the first two sets to Bulgaria. However, the Japanese
eventually won it 3-2 after three hours and 40 minutes.