Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 20, 2016 - Despite the disappointment of a semi-final setback to Serbia, Karch Kiraly is still relentless in is pursuit of perfection in Volleyball as he coached the American women’s team here Saturday to a four-set bronze medal victory over The Netherlands at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
When asked after the match about his feelings in being a part of this fifth medal winning team in the Olympics, the 55-year old Charles Frederick "Karch" Kiraly said it was a “phenomenal feeling” as his American women’s team posted a 3-1 (25-23, 27-25, 25-22, 25-19) win in 103 minutes over an up-and-coming Dutch team at the Maracanazinho.
In pursuit of perfection is five-time Olympic medal winner Karch Kiraly
The only person to win an Olympic gold medal in both Volleyball (Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988) and Beach Volleyball (Atlanta 1996) as a player, Kiraly collected his fourth medal as an assistant coach for the American women’s silver medal Volleyball team at the London 2012 Summer Games.
“The biggest difference between London and today in Rio is that we ended the competition with a win,” said Kiraly, who is always watching and listening for anything that will make him better as the leader of the United States program through the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. “Losing anytime in your final match of any competition is disheartening. I am very pleased and proud with the way our team responded today after losing to Serbia.”
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Kiraly led off his post-match media conference saying his team was inspired by Kerri Walsh Jennings. A three-time Olympic Beach Volleyball gold medal winner with Misty May-Treanor in 2004, 2008 and 2012, Walsh Jennings had less than 22 hours to rebound from the disappointment of losing in the semifinal and came back late Wednesday event to win bronze with April Ross on Copacabana.
While his team had 48 hours between matches to recover from the Serbian setback, Kiraly said Walsh Jennings wrote an “inspiring” letter to his team about playing for the bronze medal and the value of closing out the Rio 2016 Olympic Games competition with a win. Walsh Jennings also played in her first Olympics with the USA women’s Volleyball team that placed fourth in the Sydney 2000 “Summer” Games.
Kiraly, who started the Rio 2016 Olympic Games seeking to become the first-ever individual to secure a “daily double” of podium-topping performances at the “Summer” Games as both a player and coach. After serving as an assistant coach for the United States’ women’ from 2009-2012, Kiraly has guided the program the past four years to an overall 126-24 record (99-21 record with him as head coach on the sideline).
He coached the program to its first-ever FIVB World Championship gold medal in 2014, along with the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix title as the United States hosted the final round for the first time in its 23-year history. The Americans have won six of seven tournaments from the 2014 FIVB World Championship to the 2016 NORCECA Women's Olympic Qualification Tournament.
Kiraly’s “Krew” became one of the early favorites in the Rio competition along Brazil, China, Russia, Serbia and The Netherlands. All six teams reached the women’s Olympic quarter-finals along with Japan and South Korea. And the Rio “final four” contestants all came from the same group (Pool B) as the Americans defeated The Netherlands (3-2), Serbia (3-1) and China (3-1) in the preliminary rounds.
From there, China upset and eliminated host Brazil in five sets before advancing to the gold medal match against Serbia by defeating The Netherlands 3-1 in the semi-finals. Serbia, the runner ups in the 2015 World Cup to China, ousted the Russians 3-0 before winning an exciting five-set semi-final over Americans.
After the setback to Serbia and before playing The Netherlands for the Rio Olympic bronze medal, Kiraly was quoted in saying “it’s very painful. That’s OK. When you care that much, it’s going to. We get some time to grieve. We signed up to do difficult things for USA. We are going to come back harder to fight for a bronze medal.”
A winner of 148 Beach Volleyball tournaments, including a gold medal win with Kent Steffes at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, it has been written that “Kiraly is still a young coach, still learning how to handle different situations.” He said he “will make mistakes of inexperience. But the advantage is, I’m really fresh and excited about doing this a lot.”
Kiraly told NBC recently that he loves “to visit any gym or any training site of any coach in any sport. I know there’s something I’m going to learn. I got to visit Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks and watch how they train.” Kiraly also said he closely follows the career of Gregg Popovich, who will coach the American men’s basketball team in Tokyo.
“You have to be always be willing to grow,” said Carroll in a recent interview about Kiraly’s visit with the coach who has won collegiate and professional football championships in the United States. “And that’s what Karch really stands for. He will not rest. If there’s another way out there, he’s going to find it. I’m sure that translates to his team. There’s nothing that will stop him,” said Carroll.
There is no questioning Kiraly’s “Kredentials”. He is an Olympic champion as a player and a medal winner as coach. As he continues to “polish” to his resume, his vision now turns to leading the Americans in Tokyo seeking to win the United States first-ever Volleyball gold medal. That indeed, would be a “phenomenal feeling”.