US women claim first volleyball gold

Josh DubowAAP
US players celebrate winning their country's maiden Olympic women's volleyball gold medal.
Camera IconUS players celebrate winning their country's maiden Olympic women's volleyball gold medal. Credit: AP

The US women's volleyball team's decades-long quest for a first Olympic gold medal ended when they finally broke through with a 25-21 25-20 25-14 victory over Brazil in the Tokyo final.

The US, who had won three silver medals and two bronze since first getting on the medal podium in 1984, got to the top step by beating the team that denied them gold in the final match of the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Captain Jordan Larson, who was part of that silver-winning team in 2012 and the bronze medal team five years ago, paved the way with her leadership on the court and her strong play on the attack and on defence.

Larson and middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo Gunderson, who both came back for a third Olympics after falling short in Rio de Janeiro, now have a complete medal collection following the final Olympic match of their careers.

The victory also allowed US coach Karch Kiraly to join Lang Ping of China as the second person to win gold as a volleyball player and then lead a country to gold as coach. Kiraly won gold indoor as a player in 1984 and 1988. He also won gold in beach volleyball in 1996.

Brazil played the match short-handed after outside hitter Tandara Caixeta was sent home before the semi-finals following her suspension for a potential violation of anti-doping rules. Tandara's lawyer said a banned substance found in a July test was introduced accidentally into her system.

Brazil had won gold in either men's or women's indoor volleyball in four straight Olympics, with the men claiming the title in 2004 and 2016 and the women in 2008 and 2012.

But it will leave only with a silver this year, after the women lost for the first time in Tokyo following seven straight wins. The men lost a semi-final match to the Russians and then the bronze medal game against Argentina.

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