The World No. 1 and defending champions produced an amazing run in the month-long competition. In their final clash against Japan on Sunday, Brazil stayed cool under pressure to power past the fighting hosts in a four-set thriller 25-21, 25-27, 25-19, 25-19.
Welissa Sassa Gonzaga scored a match-high 19 points for Brazil, while Maiko Kano led Japan with 14, including 11 kills from 27 attempts.
With such a flawless performance, the formidable Brazil made a clean sweep of the competitive round-robin Final Round to bag 10 points, enough to once again see them top the medal podium.
World champions and three-time winners Russia also finished on high note after they sent 2007 champions Netherlands packing in three sets 25-20, 25-23, 25-21.
Tall and towering Gamova Ekaterina of Russia was the top scorer with 22 points, 20 of them through devastating spikes, with Debby Stam claiming 11 points for the Netherlands. Russia claimed nine points from four wins against one loss to finish second.
European powerhouse Netherlands and up-and-coming Germany collected seven points each from two wins against three losses, but the latter had a better points ratio to take the consolation third place, with the Dutchwomen placing fourth.
Fist-pumping Germany, the World No.12 that finished eighth at the tournament last year, saved the best for last in the prestigious tournament on Sunday by crushing an off-form Chinese side, bronze medalists at last year’s Beijing Olympics, 4-0 (25-14, 23-25, 25-21, 25-14).
Hard-hitting Margareta Kozuch topped the day’s scorers with 30 points, including 27 kills, while Ma Yunwen led China with 15.
It was the Germany’s second medal in the World Grand Prix history. In 2002 in Hong Kong, the Germans finished third to Russia and China respectively to return home with bronze - their first medal ever in the star-studded competition.
In front of a large number of audience packing the 10,000-seater competition venue and millions of TV viewers around the world watching live broadcast, Brazil has already stretched their remarkable success in the World Grand Prix to unchallenged eight times.
It was a tough, challenging job, but excellently accomplished by the 55-year-old head coach Jose Roberto Lagas Guimaraes, who has already steered the Brazilians to win five World Grand Prix titles as well as the last year’s unprecedented Olympic Games crown.
The Brazil’s achievement in the World Grand Prix dated back in 1994 in Shanghai where they beat Cuba to capture their unprecedented crown.
Brazil repeated the similar feat in 1996 in Shanghai and maintained their awesome display to win their third title in Hong Kong in 1998, followed by 2004 in Reggio Calabria, Italy, 2005 in Sendai, 2006 in Reggio Calabria and 2008 in Yokohama.
The Brazil’ predictably-brilliant performances in this year’s World Grand Prix sounded a warning bell to the world volleyball that they are the indomitable giants not to be toppled easily in future top-notched competitions including the next year’s Japan-hosted World Championship Finals.
“It’s very great to win the World Grand Prix again. I admit that it was a tough match against Japan. They are coming much stronger each year. They are getting better and better and can be a strong team to be reckoned with in the near future,” said Brazil’s head coach Jose Roberto Lagas Guimaraes.
Added captain Sheilla Castrom, who won the tournament's Most Valuable Player Award, “It was a tough match. Japan already proved that they are very strong. Moreover, they received a strong support from home crowd. In the second set, we did not attack well. It might be because we played too many matches so far in the tournament. I’m very glad that my team won the gold medal. Credits should go to staff coaches who gave us strong supports.”
Despite a fourth-place finish, the Netherlands still had something to be proud of as captain Manon Flier won the Best Scorer and the Best Server Awards.
photos Janos Schmidt