Beach volleyball: Brazil and Russia take the spoils
Following 12 thrilling days of competition, Brazilian pair Eduarda Santos Lisboa and Ana Patricia Silva Ramos and Russian duo Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Artem Iarzutkin emerged as the Youth Olympic Games’ first ever beach volleyball gold medallists.
Volleyball appeared on the programme at Singapore 2010 in its traditional indoor, six-a-side format. At Nanjing 2014, however, it was the turn of beach volleyball to make its YOG debut, with a total of 144 male and female players taking to the sand at the city’s Youth Olympic Sports Park.
Both the men’s and women’s tournaments began with a group phase comprising six pools of six teams each. The top four sides in each group then advanced to the knockout phase, with the eight best qualifiers going straight into the round of 16. The remaining 16 qualifiers entered an elimination round featuring eight ties, the winners of which also progressed to the last 16.
In total, there were 228 matches (114 in each tournament) took place ahead of the women’s and men’s finals, which were played on consecutive days.
Brazilian women make history
Brazilian pairing Eduarda Santos Lisboa and Ana Patricia Silva Ramos claimed the first beach volleyball gold medal ever awarded at the Youth Olympic Games, beating Canadian twins Megan and Nicole McNamara 2-1 (17-21, 21-13, 16-14) in the women’s final.
After losing the opening set – the only one they conceded in the whole tournament – the Brazilians came back strongly to win the second, thanks to Silva Ramos’ impressive spiking, and clinched the decisive set third courtesy of a Santos Lisboa spike.
“It’s pure emotion,” said Silva Ramos, on the point of tears, afterwards. “It is the happiest moment in my life. I really could not imagine all of this. It’s the dream of any athlete. ‘Dream’ is the only word that can describe what happened to us now.”
Echoing her partner’s feelings, Santos Lisboa said: “We made it to the Youth Olympics, conquered the podium. There are no words to describe all of this.
“To come here is a dream, imagine [how it is] to win it, and we managed to do this, by making one step at a time and by staying together,” added the 16-year-old. “I can’t explain what I feel now because it’s a very strong feeling I have in my chest.”
Though they trained together for only six months, the Brazilians were able to build up quite a bond, as Silva Ramos explained: “I think the key factor was union at the end of the match, because at the end we regrouped and managed to take the game.
“We knew the opponents were really good because they took the podium at the World Championships. We knew it would be a difficult game. We had a few problems in the first set, but we reacted well and managed to control the game.”
Santos Lisboa added: “We were a bit separated in the first set but knew we wouldn’t win if we didn’t unite. So I spoke to her [Silva Ramos] and we came together as a team.”
Despite missing out on gold, the McNamara twins, who beat Germany’s Lisa Arnholdt and Sarah Schneider 2-0 in the semi-finals, were delighted with their efforts.
“In the second set we got really tense and nervous but then in the timeout we regrouped,” said Nicole. “In the third set we decided to just try and have fun and try our best.”
“I’m really proud of how we played,” Megan commented. “We knew we would have to play our very best to beat them and they played well too, so we are really happy with the result.”
Arnholdt and Schneider needed just two sets to beat Russia’s Nadezda Makroguzova and Daria Rudykh (21-14, 27-25) to clinch the bronze medal.
“We played with the heart, with the soul and had a lot of fun,” said Arnholdt, explaining the key to their victory.
Russian pair win gold and settle a score
Knocked out by Venezuela’s Jose Gregorio Gomez and Rolando Hernandez in the quarter-finals of the recent World Under-19 Championship in Portugal, Russia’s Oleg Stoyanovskiy and Artem Iarzutkin gained the sweetest revenge possible in Nanjing by beating the South American pair to the gold medal in the men’s beach volleyball competition.
Taller than their opponents and playing superior beach volleyball, the Russians eased to a 2-0 win (21-12, 21-13) to land the first YOG men’s title in the sport.
“We played strong. Our coach gave us a good strategy for the match because we lost to this team three weeks ago. So today we played very good on the block and defence,” reflected Stoyanovskiy after the final.
“We didn’t win medals in the previous two championships, so that was a maximum goal to win, especially here on the Olympic stage,” added Iarzutkin.
Though they came off second best, the Venezuelans were more than happy to improve on the bronze medal they took home from the Under-19 World Championships.
“We get out of the final with a loss, but with our heads held high,” mused Hernandez, while his team-mate Gomez added: “Winning this silver medal is a great experience, we always dreamed about it, and finally we have it in our hands. We lost the final, but we enjoyed it all.”
“After losing the semi-final we told each other to just keep going and really try hard,” said Aulisi, while Aveiro commented: “We gave all we had and we are so happy about this.”