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Russian volleyballers grind out gold medal

Russian volleyballers grind out gold medal

02/08/1980

It’s safe to say that Russia’s women’s volleyball team was looking to salvage some battered pride at the 1980 Olympic Games tournament in Moscow.

The all-conquering Red machine had dominated Olympic competition since women first started competing in volleyball way back 1964.

The team won two of the first three golds on offer before a stunning thrashing at the hands of Japan in the 1976 final in Montreal showed their mortality.

Japan’s win and the rising talent base in China and Cuba offered a genuine threat to Russian domination in the sport which had netted four world titles in the immediate post-War years.

Cuba and Japan had the audacity to contest the 1978 world championship final on Russia’s home soil in Leningrad, and it was in the unaccustomed position of not being favourite when the Olympic tournament started two years later.

The Russians fired a warning shot across the boughs of all their rivals at the Druzhba Arena with crushing preliminary round wins over East Germany and Cuba, the latter meaning the world champions failed to qualify for the semi-finals.

They lost just two sets in the qualifiers, conceding only 99 points in the process and entered the semi-finals with renewed spring in their step.

Hungary battled defiantly for two sets of the semi before capitulating 15-2 in the third as Russia booked their place in the gold medal playoff where they were again pitted against the East Germans.

There was an electric atmosphere as the two teams faced off through the net and the first two sets were shared with some of the highest quality rallies.

Once Russia, playing in an unfamiliar blue kit, had clinched a tight third set 15-13 there was only going to be one winner and the hosts sealed the victory by a 15-7 margin in the fourth.

Discover the best photos of Moscow 1980

  • Opening Ceremony Moscow 1980

    The final torchbearer, basketballer Sergei Belov, in the Moscow Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony

    ©IOC

  • Relay Moscow 1980

    A torchbearer during the Moscow 1980 Games Torch relay

    ©IOC

  • Aleksandr Dityatin (URS)

    Aleksandr Dityatin on the rings at the Moscow 1980 Games

    ©IOC

  • Winner's medal Moscow 1980

    The reverse of this medal is very different from its obverse. However, it is not the work of the same artist. While the obverse was a creation by Giuseppe Cassioli, the reverse was designed by Ilya Postol, a young Soviet sculptor. We can see several elements that stand out through their stylisation: an Olympic cauldron, an athletics track in the background and the official logo of the Moscow Games on the top right ©CIO

  • Winner's medal Moscow 1980

    The obverse comprises a design by Tuscan artist Giuseppe Cassioli. This motif can be found on the obverse of all the winner’s medals presented at the Summer Games since 1928 with the exception of three special cases: Barcelona'92, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. An inscription, in Cyrillic, allows us to make the link with the Moscow Games. This is its transcription in the Latin alphabet and its translation: “Igry XXII Olympiady Moskva 1980” / “Games of the XXII Olympiad, Moscow 1980”©IOC

  • Opening Ceremony Moscow 1980

    View of the delegations standing in front of the Misha mascot created by the public holding up boards

    ©IOC

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