David Ahman and Jonatan Hellvig secured a surprise gold for the Scandinavian nation in the men’s event, concluding their stunning campaign with a 22-20 21-15 final victory over the Netherlands’ pair of Matthew Immers and Yorick de Groot.
In the women’s final, meanwhile, pre-YOG favourites Maria Voronina and Mariia Bocharova of Russia completed a hard-fought 21-19 21-19 victory over Italy’s Nicol Bertozi and Claudia Scampoli.
Argentina won a well-received bronze in the men’s competition, as Mauro Zelayeta and Juan Bautista Amieva Tarditti got the better of Hungary’s Artur Hajos and Bence Attila Streli in straight sets, while Norway’s Emilie Olimstad and Frida Bernsten edged out the USA pair of Devon Newberry and Lindsey Sparks 18-21 21-13 15-9 to complete the women’s podium.
After losing their opening match of Buenos Aires 2018 to Germany, Ahman and Hellvig barely put a foot wrong, winning every one of their remaining matches to claim a gold medal that took even them by surprise.
“We had no expectations of any this before coming here, let alone winning gold,” Ahman said. “We started our tournament off with a loss, then after that there were only wins. We even beat the Germans in the quarter-final. That’s when we understood that we could win something nice, because we learned from our mistakes.”
The Swedish duo were firm favourites with the fans at the Green Park thanks to their enthusiastic celebrations, and Ahman did not let the pressure of the gold-medal match dampen his enthusiasm. After a string of blocks and aces he briefly danced to Jennifer Lopez’s Let’s Get Loud, much to the delight of the crowd.
“When I get in the mood I like to let loose a bit,” he said. “Our sport is still a show in the end. The fans pumped us up a lot, and I love to give something back.”
His teammate Hellvig added: “Apart from this gold medal, the thing we’ve loved in Buenos Aires is the crowd. It seems they liked us. It feels a bit weird to be shouted at by so many people in the stands who want us to wave to them and take selfies. We’re not really used to that.”
The enthusiastic support from the stands was also appreciated by women’s gold medallist Voronina: “We’re happy to win the gold medal here, but we really liked the Argentinian fans at the arena. They supported us even though we are from another distant country. They really understand our sport and cheered all the athletes here, like true sportspeople do.”
Bertozzi was delighted to take second spot for Italy: “We knew Russia were really strong, so silver still feels good to us.”
Reacting to Norway’s unexpected women’s bronze, Olimstad said: “We come from such a little country, where beach volleyball is not such a famous sport, so to get the bronze here is amazing. We were not just born with skis under our feet. We can do more than that.”
Team-mate Bernsten, who celebrated her 17th birthday on Tuesday, added: “When you come from Norway no one expects anything from you, especially winning medals in summer sports. It’s all about winter sports there, so it’s fun to show Norwegian people that it’s possible to do a great job at the summer Olympics too.”