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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







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

Championship crown

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

the bronze.



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


hour, won

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.