Lausanne, Switzerland, February 18, 2016 - It could be said that the women’s Olympic volleyball competition of 1988 turned on two fateful moments, the first coming when Africa declined to enter a team, and a qualification tournament for their place was held in Italy. It was won by the three times Olympic champions USSR (East Germany had qualified as European champions).
With reigning world and Olympic champions China as well as twice Olympic champions Japan, the competition in Seoul was always going to be fierce. And there were dark horses in the shape of Peru, who had been on the podium at the 1982 and 1986 World Championships and were led by Cecilia Tait and Denise Fajardo, considered among the best female players in the world at that time.
In the event it was the USSR and Peru who reached the final. China took the bronze medal from Japan in straight sets, but the final itself 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. But then came the second fateful moment.
Soviet coach Nicolai Karpol called a timeout and made three changes and watched as his team came 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).
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 third-place match that lasted three hours and 10 minutes). In the final, after dropping the first set USA proved too powerful for the USSR, winning 3-1 (13-15, 15-10, 15-4, 15-8).
This article is one of a series in the run-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as the FIVB looks back at previous Olympic volleyball tournaments.
Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games click here
Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games click here
Munich 1972 Olympic Games click here
Montreal 1976 Olympic Games click here
Moscow 1980 Olympic Games click here
Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games click here