OLYMPICS / Other Teams

Brazil wins, so does 'Iron Hammer' Lang

Updated: 2008-08-24 13:06


BEIJING -- There is no loser in women's volleyball on Saturday night, though it is virtually a team of grinning Brazilian girls, hopping and almost dancing at the top of the podium to celebrate their first-ever Olympic gold.

The always-emotional Americans did not bother to control their joyful tears this time as they bagged the country's second, but the first for all the players, silver medal home. A Chinese squad, led by their current head coach Lang Ping, crushed their golden dreams at home court 24 years ago in Los Angeles.

Gold medalists from Brazil celebrate victory over the US after the medal ceremony for the women's volleyball gold medal match in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing on August 23, 2008. Brazil defeated the US 3-1 and took the gold medal. [Agencies]

Brazil, playing ballet-like delicate passing and samba-like quick smashing, turned the first clash between the two teams at Beijing Games into an artistic 25-15, 18-25, 25-13 and 25-21 victory.

The ecstatic South Americans screamed, cried, huddled and tossed their captain Helia Souza in the air before they paraded their excitement around the court, wrapping themselves with the Brazilian national flag.

Among all the Brazilian girls, Marianne Steinbrecher might be the luckiest one as there can't be a better gift to celebrate her 25th birthday on Saturday than an Olympic gold medal.

"It's a gift from God. But many many thanks I would like to give to the whole team and our coach," said the 1.88-meter wing spiker who scored 14 points for her team, the second highest after stunning Sheilla Castro.

As a matter of fact, the gold medal is a late reward to the Brazilians, who has long been ranked World's No. 1, but failed to win either championship of the three major international tournament, namely, World Cup, World Championship and the Olympics before.

But the Brazilian finished the gold drought in nearly-perfect way. They only conceded one set throughout the Beijing Games.

Head coach of the US volleyball team Lang Ping (C) waves to the members of her team after losing to Brazil in their women's final volleyball match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 23, 2008. [Agencies]

"We are the best team in the world, now I can say it," said Brazil's head coach Jose Robert Guimaraes.

With the gold medal, the Brazilian man also made history to become the first coach to guide a men's and a women's team to win an Olympic Gold.  Guimaraes led a well-organized Brazil men's team to win the volleyball championship at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

"I'm very glad and very proud to engrave my names in the history of volleyball with such achievements," he said.

Guimaraes's American counterpart Lang Ping also proved herself as one of the best volleyball coaches in the world after the match.

In the overwhelming "Lang Ping Jiayou (Go, Lang Ping)", the US players enjoyed a "home advantage" that other foreign teams might never have chance to taste.

It's the second time for the 47-year-old Lang, once the most famous Chinese volleyballer, to lead a team to win the Olympic silver. Lang was the head coach of the Chinese women volleyball team when they became the runners-up at the 1996 Games. She took the helm of the United States' team in 2005.

"She's been our leaders for nearly four years and we respect her. She developed a style for our team to drive us fight hard and we also showed her we can do it," said the U. S. player Lindsey Berg.

Lang extended congratulations to the Chinese team, who won the bronze medal, and gratitude to the home fans at the post-match press conference.

"I think all my fans are really proud of me as a Chinese who is coaching the U. S. team. We actually really shared about our technical experience internationally and you can also see the fans how much they feel supporting us," said Lang, but she declined the possibility to coach the Chinese team again.

"There are many great coaches in China and I also would like to spend more time with my daughter," she said.

Earlier in the bronze medal match, China upset Cuba 3-1.

The defending champion, shrugging off the humiliating straight-set loss to Brazil in the semifinals, won the morale-boosting match, 25-16, 21-25, 25-13 and 25-20.

Although the host easily won the first set, Cuba, three-time champion in 1992, 1996 and 2000 fought back to win the second set. But China's powerful serving and solid blocking overpowered the Cubans who failed to win another set.

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