Fearless Chinese women overcome nerves to spike Brazil’s dream of a third straight volleyball gold
China’s women volleyball players had every reason to shed tears of joys after pulling off a massive upset victory over favourites Brazil in the quarter-finals.
The two teams have met on 20 occasions in the past eight years, with China winning only twice.
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With the home advantage and scores of spectators cheering for the more experienced hosts, Brazil were full of confidence and on course to take their third consecutive Olympic volleyball gold.
But the younger Chinese players did not consider defeat an option, putting up a spectacular fight and outplaying their opponents 15-25, 25-23, 25-22, 22-25, 15-13 to advance to the semi-finals where they will face an upstart Netherlands side.
“[My players] never gave up even though there were some nerves with the occasion. We managed to win the match and that is what our team showed the world,” China’s coach Lang Ping said.
“Each team has a 50 per cent chance. We know Brazil are one of the best in the world so we didn't think about the result, we just concentrated. If we lose we go home with no regrets.”
The strength of the Brazilian team had been beyond doubt – a fourth-place finish in Athens was bookmarked by gold in Sydney 2000, gold in Beijing in 2008, and gold again at London 2012.
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By contrast, China’s only gold in recent years was at the Athens Olympics, with fifth-place finishes in Sydney and London, and a bronze in Beijing.
The Brazilian players, aged between 22 and 36, were also the more experienced compared to an age range of 20-29 for the China team.
“Before the match I had a lot of talks with our athletes. They are young and they are inexperienced and their volleyball techniques are immature,” continued coach Lang
“However, this match today was our last chance to show how good we are. No matter of the result we were not going to give up and we are not going to fear anybody.
“We talked about our previous matches and performances. Those performances were unstable with lots of mistakes. Today I think we have proven our worth.”
For Chinese player Hui Ruoqi, team spirit was a key to victory.
“When players are off the court resting we are all united as a team. You can judge from my hoarse voice that I was involved and caring about the matches as I stood in line with my team-mates.”
Brazil coach Guimaraes Jose commented: “When we leave a stadium like this with people cheering it's amazing. Of course the pain is huge because of the result.
“But we are living an Olympic atmosphere where I see many people acknowledging the results our athletes are having, even if it’s a silver medal or bronze. It has a meaning and that was hard many years ago.”