Chinese women volleyball champions

Chinese women volleyball champions

China's players pose with their volleyball gold medals in Rio Saturday. — Reuters

RIO DE JANEIRO — China’s young women’s volleyball team overcame a surging Serbian side Saturday in four sets to take its country’s third Olympic gold medal in the sport.

Serbia was competing for the first time for an Olympic medal and had beaten China in the preliminary round, but the Asian powerhouse prevailed in the final by 19-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23.

The United States won bronze earlier Saturday after beating the Netherlands, a consolation for the world’s top-ranked team in its pursuit of an elusive gold.

China, coached by former top player Lang Ping, last won the gold medal in Athens in 2004. It won its first gold in Los Angeles in 1984 when Lang was on the team.

“Before the tournament we never thought we could win the gold,” Lang, who coached the United States to a silver medal in 2008, told reporters after the match. “I think we were lucky.

“Our young players did not play well at the beginning, but they did at the important moment.”

Serbia won the opening set with powerful serves and spikes by top scorer Brankica Mihajlovic, but China took control of the match in the key third set.

Serbia beat off an 8-point run by China and went down to an unstoppable spike by top Chinese scorer Zhu Ting.

Serbia eliminated Russia in the quarterfinals and then dispatched the favorite, the United States, in a five-set upset when the US team lost its top scorer Foluke Akinradewo to a leg injury.

With their star middle blocker back on the court Saturday, the Americans beat the Dutch women 25-23, 25-27, 25-22, 25-19 in the bronze medal match.
The United States reached the finals in the two previous Olympics in London and Beijing, but was defeated by Brazil both times.

At the Beijing Olympics, the US team coached by Lang beat China in the semifinal, cementing her reputation as one of the best women’s volleyball coaches.

Lang, 55, won her second gold Saturday, this time as the coach of young crop of Chinese athletes that had a shaky start in Rio with losses to the Netherlands and Serbia. — Reuters