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14

USSR came back from an opening loss to USA to claim their second

Olympic title in Mexico

Volleyball was an instant hit at the Olympic Games when it was first

introduced, with USSR claiming the men’s gold

OLYMPIC VOLLEYBALL

HISTORY

In the final against GDR, surprise semifinal winners over

USSR, Japan again fell behind. But after losing the first set,

they swept the next three to claim gold. In the contest for

bronze, the Bulgarians lost 3-0 to the Soviets.

The women’s competition again ended in a showdown

between USSR and Japan. The spectacular final pitted the

speedy Japanese against the powerful Soviets. In the fourth

set, the serve changed ends 24 times consecutively without

either side being able to score. Finally, after 144 dramatic

minutes, USSR prevailed 3-2. North Korea beat South Korea

3-0 for the bronze medal.

MEXICO

1968

USSR emerged with a double triumph in Mexico, defending

the men’s title and adding the women’s gold as well. Each

team played each other in a single, round-robin competition

with 10 men’s teams and eight women’s teams.

The Soviet men had a new line-up and began with a

surprise 3-2 defeat to USA. But the loss had the effect

of waking the team up; the Soviets won all of their

remaining matches, despite a five-set scare against

East Germany. They beat Japan 3-1 (4-15, 15-13, 15-9,

15-13) in the decisive match. Japan edged world champions

Czechoslovakia for the silver. Five of the top six teams were

Eastern European.

The women’s competition saw a reversal of Olympic fortunes

for USSR and Japan. The undefeated Soviet women were

applauded not only for their physical prowess and power, but

also for an unexpected injection of inventiveness. Reigning

Olympic champions Japan lacked a little in playmaking and

lost the title after a 3-1 defeat to the Soviets in the final match.

TOKYO

1964

Volleyball was officially included in the Olympic Games

for the first time in 1964, with 10 men’s teams and six

women’s teams. It gained an enthusiastic audience in

Japan, one of the world’s top volleyball countries.

The men’s competition was a three-way battle between

USSR, Czechoslovakia and hosts Japan. USSR beat

Czechoslovakia, who beat Japan, who in turn beat the

Soviets. Japan’s second defeat, by Hungary, relegated them

to the bronze-medal position, leaving USSR to take gold

on points difference from Czechoslovakia, repeating the

1-2 finish of the 1962 World Championship. The victorious

USSR team was led by Yuri Chesnokov, who went on to

become the coach of Russia and an FIVB vice president

before passing away in 2010.

The women’s tournament went as expected. If Japan

could win the 1962 World Championship in Moscow, how

could they not triumph at home? And that proved to be

the case. USSR had been counting on the Olympics for a

return to their gold-medal-winning ways but their team

was no match for Hirofumi Daimatsu’s women. Indeed, in

six matches Japan conceded only one set – to Poland, who

finished third. The Soviet women, who from 1958 to 1962

had been the dominant force in international competition,

had to be content with the silver medal. After the Games

the Japanese captain, 31-year-old Masae Kasai, was

invited to meet Japan Prime Minister Eisaku Sato. During

their meeting, she confessed that because of the difficult

training regime for the Olympics she had found it hard to

meet any men. Sato insisted on helping her, and arranged

a meeting with the man who later became her husband.