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One month after first serve, memories of Rio still stay strong

 
Lausanne, Switzerland, September 6, 2016 - With a two-minute delay, at exactly 09:32 local time a month ago to the day, Dominican referee Denny Cespedes blew the first whistle and Korea's Park Jeongah stepped up to the service line in Rio de Janeiro's iconic Maracanazinho Stadium to get the biggest volleyball spectacle on the planet rolling.

Captain Saori Kimura replied with a spike that earned Japan the first point of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games - but the quick first rally of the competition marked the start of two wonderful weeks of women's and men's volleyball, full of smiles and tears, exhilaration and depression, pure joy and utter devastation.


Highlights of the Rio 2016 women's final, China v Serbia.

In the end, 5,986 rallies later, it was the third Asian side in Rio 2016 that emerged triumphant, when China's Hui Ruoqi took advantage of Zhang CHangning's poorly received service to spike uncontested the end and bring home match point of the final match against Serbia.


Captain Hui Ruoqi celebrates after scoring match points for Olympic gold against Serbia in the Rio 2016 final.


It was China's first gold medal since Athens 2004 and third in total, allowing the Asian side to overtake Cuba in the overall women's volleyball medals table. It came after a first week of shaky pool play that saw China qualify just fourth for the knockout stage, before causing a lot of drama in knocking out hosts Brazil in five in the quarterfinals and then taking out The Netherlands in four in the semis.

 

Despite going down to an opponent they had beat in straight sets in pool play, it was a dream ending for Serbia, who became a new entry in the medals table at number seven.


Serbia's silver medal at Rio 2016 was a historic momemnt for the Balkan side.

The Netherlands could have become a new entry themselves, but after a magnificent run through pool play and a very convincing four-set win over Korea in the quarterfinals, eventually fell to USA in four sets in the bronze medal match.



The reigning world champions and London 2012 silver medallists were surely hoping for something more than that bronze. But although that Olympic gold still eludes them, they have managed to stay on the podium for the third Olympics running.


USA celebrate the bronze medal after a four-set win over The Netherlands - but that Olympic gold still eludes them.

Further down the table, the two teams that got it all running, Japan and Korea, bowed out of the competition in the quarterfinals, missing out on a chance of a shot at the medals, after both had played for bronze four years earlier in London 2012.

As did reigning European champions Russia, who suffered a very heavy defeat to Serbia in the quarterfinals. It's now been 12 years since Russia were last on an Olympic podium.

But the story of the quarterfinals was surely the defeat of home favourites and defending champions Brazil in the hands of China - a result that left a packed Maracanazinho, and indeed a whole nation, in shock. After an absolutely perfect run of five wins and 15-0 sets in pool play, Brazil made a very early departure and missed out on the opportunity to match Cuba's unique record of three straight Olympic gold medals from the 1990s.


Brazil's defeat in the quarterfinals to China left the home players in tears and a whole nation in shock.

It's now 1417 days until an Olympic Games service is once again sent over the net at Ariake Arena in Tokyo 2020 - time enough for everyone to pull together and give it another go.

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