Destinee wasn’t enough.
Brazil denied the United States its first Olympic gold medal in women’s volleyball Saturday in a 3-1 upset that had the Brazilians turning somersaults on the court and some American players sobbing. It was the first loss for the U.S. at the tournament and the second straight gold medal for Brazil. American star Destinee Hooker, the second-best scorer at the London Olympics, was held to 14 points.
Jaqueline Carvalho had 18 points to help Brazil overcome a disastrous first set and win 11-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-17. “We felt we lost control in the first set, but we never lost sight of our objectives, and that was to win gold”, Carvalho said. “We knew the U.S. is a great team, that the game would be tough. But we managed to turn it around.”
Fabiana celebrates with teammates
With the inspired play of Jacqueline and Fernanda Garay, Brazil turned the tables
In the second set, Brazil bounced back to take an 11-6 lead Fernanda Garay’s kill, sparking a thunderous ovation from the fans at Earls Court. Logan Tom’s spike tied it at 12, but Brazil scored six straight and took the set.
Fernanda Garay (16) celebrates a point
Brazil reacted in the second set. With two attacks by Jaqueline and one by Fernanda Garay, the team opened up at 3-0, showing that they had recovered from their poor performance in the first set. Even after the US the game at 12-12, Brazil didn’t despair. To the contrary, the sequence of points led to a big lead at 18-12. From there, their attacks would help close the set in 26 minutes and tie the game.
Again, the Brazilian team had a good start in the set, opening a 6-2 lead. Asclose as they got, the US didn’t go ahead on the scoreboard at any time in the set. With Garay, Jacqueline and Sheilla inspired attacks, Brazil controlled the lead until closing it out at 25/20 in 27 minutes, making the game 2-1.
The Brazilians celebrated wildly after taking a 6-2 lead in the third. The United States narrowed it to 21-19 on Hooker’s kill, but it was as close as they came, and Castro’s kill won the set.
With momentum now on the side of the Brazilians, Fabiana’s kill gave them a 13-9 lead in the fourth. Thaisa Menezes extended it to 23-14 before Garay’s match-winning kill.
Castro and Fabiana leapt into the official’s chair, and Brazil’s coaches rushed to pile on the other players. Later, the Brazilians danced into the medal ceremony.
Brazil became the third team to repeat as gold medalist. The Soviet Union won in 1968 and 1972, while Cuba won three straight starting with the 1992 Barcelona Games. Brazil also won bronze in 1996 and 2000.
“I’m proud of these girls. We worked really hard, we came into this final game undefeated. You can’t get any better than that”, Hooker said. “I think Brazil kicked it up a notch after the first set. A wonderful win for them.”
It was the third silver for the U.S. women. The others were in 1984 and 2008.
The loss in London was a disappointing finish for U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon and kept him from the distinction of steering both the American men’s and women’s teams to gold medals.
On the other side, six players on the Brazilian team who won gold in 2008 became the country’s first two-time women’s Olympic champions: Fabi, Fabiana, Jaqueline, Paula Pequeno, and Sheilla and Thaísa. Having been coach in the first Olympic title in men’s volleyball (Barcelona in 1992) and also the first conquest of the women, José Roberto Guimarães claimed his third Olympic gold medal.
Coach José Roberto Guimarães
“I just have to thank all the Brazilian people, who sent positive energy so that this moment would happen. Monday we arrive in Brazil, we will celebrate together”, the coach said in an interview with Sportv.
Having almost being eliminated, the Brazilian Olympic team transformed itself after its victory over Russia. As in Beijing, winning the London Games was also marked by a comeback. If that time, the Brazilian team needed to erase the remarkable defeat for Russia in the semifinals of the Athens Games in 2004, this time the recovery had to be immediate. Two defeats in the first phase, to the US and South Korea left the team near elimination, and ironically it was a US victory over Turkey by 3-0 in the last round that led Brazil to the quarterfinals. And the thrilling 3-2 victory over Russia, saving six match points in the fifth set, marked the turn of the yellow-green team, which carried them to the brink of a title.
Brazil wins the third set
“We did not come out of the hole for nothing, let’s not lose this game, was what people were saying after the first set. That time (the first phase) was left behind. We play for love, we live volleyball, it’s a privilege to wear the shirt of Brazil. At times we know we don’t do our best, but the criticism in bad times was also important. I cannot thank this group enough. Women have many problems, are moody, don’t know how to relate to each other, but in the most difficult moment we showed that we have a group of 12 women”, Fabi said after the match.
Brazilian women accept their gold medals
Feast and emotion on the podium
The award ceremony became a big party: the Olympic champions returned to the court making an animated train and, at the podium, they didn’t stop dancing and pumping up the crowd, even after the early delivery of the medals. When the Japanese players received the bronze medals, they drew cheers of ‘Nippon, Nippon “, and repeated the salute, with the crowd shouting “USA, USA” during the delivery of the silver to the US team. The party stopped only when the national anthem was played, and some players didn’t hold back the tears, especially Fabi.