Beijing, China, August 23, 2008 - They finally did it, and they did it in style. The Brazilians beat USA 3-1 in the final of the Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Saturday for their first Olympic gold on their eighth attempt.
And over the course of a tournament in which they flourished with the ever-excellent Paula Pequeno being named MVP, the Brazilians dropped just the one set - to the Americans in the gold-medal match.
Japan, by the way, are the only team to win an Olympic Volleyball title without dropping a set when the Women claimed gold in Montreal in 1976.
Brazil tore through the pool stages with straight set wins over Algeria, Russia, Serbia, Kazkahstan and Italy before blanking Japan in the quarter-finals and China in the semi-finals.
But to the credit of the Americans, Brazil couldn't quite make it a clean sweep.
Not that they will be too worried about that. After two Olympic bronze medals in 1996 and 2000 they've achieved what they set out to do.
Brazil player Walewska Oliveira paid tribute to Head Coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes after the match.
"He's been our coach since 2003 so he's been through a lot of difficult times with us," said Walewska. "We felt confident and relaxed during the tournament because he let us play to our own rhythm. That made our job really easy."
Fabiana "Fabi" de Oliveira, ranked Best Libero by the FIVB in the tournament, said the gold medal was the perfect answer to critics of their bronze medal four years ago in Athens, when they were fancied for the gold.
"We spent four years trying to atone for our loss (in Athens), even though we didn't feel it wasn't our fault," said Fabi. "I think people should be more supportive. We are part of a winning generation and today we won this medal which was so hard to get."
It was a double celebration for Brazil's Marianne Steinbrecher as she picked up the gold on her 25th birthday.
"Today is my birthday and this is the best present I could have ever got," said Steinbrecher. "I thank my team. It wasn't easy. This is a product of all our hard work and never giving up. To whoever criticised us, here's the proof we can do it."
USA player Stacy Sykora praised USA's Chinese Head Coach "Jenny" Ping Lang, who led China to silver as Head Coach at Atlanta 1996 and won gold as a player at Los Angeles 1984, when the Chinese beat USA in the final, America's only previous gold-medal match at the Olympics.
"She is one of the best technical coaches," said Sykora.
USA's Logan Tom, ranked as Best Scorer throughout the tournament by the FIVB, was pleased with the silver medal.
"We have no disappointments, we could have not gone out there, but we played our hearts out. I'm happy with this thing around my neck, and I will be forever," said Tom.
Fewest sets conceded in Women's Volleyball - Olympic champions only:
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse