Germany now has back-to-back Olympic champions as Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst join London 2012 men’s gold medal winners Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann in winning summer Games beach volleyball titles.
With the first set being very competitive with 10 ties and five lead changes, Ludwig and Walkenhorst led from start to finish in the second set by scoring the first two points followed by a four-point run to give the Germans a commanding 6-1 edge. Agatha and Barbara pulled to within three points at 6-3 and 7-4, before Ludwig and Walkenhorst expanding the leads to 10-5, 15-8 and 20-13.
The victory was Ludwig and Walkenhorst’s fifth in six international meetings with Agatha and Barbara with two of the victories in gold medal matches on the FIVB World Tour at the 2015 Yokohama Grand Slam in Japan and the 2016 smart Major Hamburg in Germany. The lone Brazilian win was in the first match between the two teams in the semi-finals at the 2015 Stavanger Major in Norway.
As the top team on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour ranking list with five other gold medals this season, Ludwig and Walkenhorst have now won their last 13 international Beach Volleyball matches and 19 of their last 21 contests. The Germans last setback was a three-set defeat at the hands of American collegiate champions Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes.
For the 2015-2016 FIVB season, Ludwig and Walkenhorst have now compiled a 65-8 record with a 159-54 career mark together. With the Rio Olympics being their 37th international start together, the Germans have won eight gold medals, competed in 10 finals, placed on the podium 15 times and participated in 18 “final fours”.
Entering the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour campaign that started last October in Mexico, Germany had won only two of the previous 15 gold medal matches with the Brazilians. Since the Puerto Vallarta event on the Mexican west coast, the Germans have improved it by now winning four-straight times with Ludwig and Walkenhorst posting gold medal wins over Brazilians in Mexico (Eduarda “Duda” Lisboa/Elize Maia), Hamburg (Agatha/Barbara), Poland (Talita/Larissa) and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Agatha/Barbara).
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Ludwig and Walkenhorst advanced to the gold medal match Tuesday afternoon with a 2-0 (21-18, 21-12) win in 36 minutes over top-seeded Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca of Brazil. Agatha and Barbara defeated third-seeded April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States 2-0 (22-20, 21-18) in the mid-night semi-final match. The Americans rallied to win the bronze medal late Wednesday with a 2-1 (17-21, 21-17, 15-9) win in 54 minutes over Talita and Larissa.
With Walsh Jennings and Ross repeat Olympic podium placers, the German and Brazilian players were netting their first “Summer” Games medals. For Ludwig, the “third-time was the charm” for her as she placed ninth in the Beijing 2008 and fifth in the London 2012 Olympics with Sara Goller Niedrig. Walsh Jennings won Olympic gold in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 with Misty May-Treanor. The London title was over compatriots Ross and Jen Kessy.
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23:05: Welcome to Copacabana for the women's beach volleyball final. 55 minutes until the start of the match and to help prepare for the big finale, a legends match is about to start - celebrating the 20 year anniversary of beach volleyball entering the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.
23:10: Here is a list of the players turning back the clock:
WORLD LEGENDS (BLUE)
Sinjin Smith (USA), Randy Stoklos (USA), Jan Kvalheim (NOR), Bjorn Maaseide (NOR), Natalie Cook (AUS), Kerri Pottharst (AUS), Jonas Reckermann (GER) Julius Brink (GER)
BRASIL LEGENDS (GREEN)
Ana Paula, Fernando Marques, Loiola Jose’, Bada', Tullio, Adriana Samuel, Guilherme Marques, Edoardo Bacil, Monica Rodriguez
23:20: And it's the World Legends who take the honours winning the encounter 21-13.
23:30: Four years after Germany's Jonas Reckermann and Julius Brink became the first Europeans to win beach volleyball Olympic gold by beating Brazil's Alison and Emanuel, Ludwig and Walkenhorst have the chance to repeat the feat here in Rio.
23:35: Ludwig finished ninth in the Olympic Games in 2008 (Beijing) and fifth in 2012 (London), both with Sara Goller. This is the first Olympics for Walkenhorst.
23:37: Agatha and Barbara have played in nine Final Fours in 2015-2016 (Gold Prague Open 2015, Silver Stavanger Major 2015, Gold St. Petersburg Grand Slam 2015, Gold World Championships 2015, Silver Yokohama Grand Slam 2015, Silver Rio de Janeiro Open 2015, Bronze World Tour Finals 2015, Bronze Maceió Open 2016, Silver Hamburg Major 2016).
23:40: Lights out as the players enter the arena to a spectacular roar.
23:45: The media are also here in abundance.
23:48 Time to get the show on the road. After the player warm-ups, the players are welcomed again.
23:55: National anthem time
23:59: And it's Ludwig with the opening serve before Barbara's cross court drop shot does this trick. Brazil up 1-0.
00:02: A "Monster Block" from Agatha on Ludwig puts Brazil ahead 3-1.
00:03: Barbara can't control a superb spike from Ludwig. 4-4.
00:05: Agatha pokes to finish a superb rally as the winds starts to blow for the first time today. 6-4 to Brazil.
00:06: The combination of the wind and a great serve sees Ludwig land an ace past the outstretched arm of Barbara. Germany lead for the first time in the match 7-6.
00:09: The full house crowd really making their support loud and clear behind both teams. Terrific atmosphere. Another superb rally as Walkenhorst spikes home. Germany up 9-8.
00:10: Another spike from Walkenhorst sees Germany lead 11-10 at the first Technical Time-Out.
00:11: Walkenhorst ace opens the German lead to 12-10.
00:14: A three point run with the wind at their backs sees Agatha and Barbara retake the lead at 13-12.
00.15 - Agatha and Barbara call a time-out after slipping to a 15-13 deficit.
00.16 - The Gypsy Kings' version of 'Volare' rings out - hard not to sing along.
00.18 - It's tit for tat right now, neither team giving up on a point and the crowd are lapping it up.
00.19 - They go wild again when Barbara fires a left-handed shot down the line.
00.20 - She needs two goes but Walkenhorst brings up match point. Then serves long with the first.
00.20 - Cheeky Ludwig cross-shot gives the Germans the first set. 21-18.
00.21 - Fine work by the rakers who are ensuring the sand is in tip-top condition for the resumption of play.
00.22 - Quick breather and swig of water and Ludwig gets us back underway and then wins the first point of the set.
00.23 - Relief all round as Agatha scores the Brazilians first points of the second set.
00.24 - She had some nervy moments in the first set, but Walkenhorst has taken to her task with relish in the end. Like a shadow at the net as the Brazilians fail to find a way past her.
00.25 - Agatha and Barbara call for a time-out at 5-1 down.
00.28 - Full house here tonight and they are making a hell of a lot of noise.
00.31 Ludwig again, 12-6 to the Germans in the second set.
00.33 - Everyone's favourite musical theatre number blasts out, but Greased Lightning barely starts before the technical timeout arrives with the Germans leading 13-8.
00.36 - Ludwig again and its 15-10 to L and W, but A and B hit back with quickly 15-11.
00.37 - 15-12 and now the Germans call for a time-out. Cool heads needed now from both teams.
00.38 - Back out and L and W stretch the lead to 16-12.
00.40 - The German press pack just said something and we're sure its not polite, after L and W go 19-13 up.
00.41 - Match point the Germans and Ludwig to serve.
00.41 - A and B save one
00.42 - Barbara serves out and Ludwig and Walkenhorst are Olympic champions. 2-0 (21-18, 21-14).
00.42 - They are the first European team to win an Olympic medal and what a colour it is.
00.43 - Walkenhorst has found a flag and they are waving it with gay abandon.
00.43 - The DJ is reminding us about Jonas Reckermann and Julius Brink winning in London 2012.
00.45 - Cameras are being thrust into Laura and Kira's hands. Meanwhile the stage is being assembled for the medal ceremony.