Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst won Germany’s first women's Olympic beach volleyball medal, defeating Brazil in gusty conditions on Copacabana.
Bednarczuk and Seixas, world champions playing on home sand, started out as favourites but the Germans put up a fight, using their height advantage. Walkenhorst’s dominance at the net proved too much for Brazil's Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas as Germany won in two sets.
The first set started evenly, with the teams trading points in exciting rallies. But the Brazilian pair began to make errors and a Walkenhorst spike followed by a Ludwig shot allowed the Germans to close the set 21-18. The second set was much more one-sided, with Walkenhorst and Ludwig blocking well and avoiding errors as the Brazilians began to lose heart. When Seixas served into the net, the Germans sealed a deserved 21-14 victory.
On beating a Brazilian team in Rio and winning their country's first female Olympic medal in the sport, Ludwig said: “It was definitely tough. The Brazilians were really loud, I had goosebumps, it was really special. But we were focusing on us. We worked on how to be self-confident even with this crowd.”
The German duo dealt much better with the wind that picked up just before the final, serving three aces while the Brazilians faulted five times. Ludwig set out to use the conditions to their advantage: “There was a storm coming and I thought, let's take this storm and make our own storm. We just took care of our own passing and setting, and in this case we did it better. The key point was the effective serving.”
“There was so much fighting put into this one medal. We wanted gold, but also silver is a real achievement. It took a lot of work and there is no feeling of sadness. We are very happy,” Brazil’s Bednarczuk said, admitting that it would have been incredible to win the country's first female beach volleyball gold since 1996, in front of the home crowd.
Bednarczuk added that the German team played better and adapted well to the conditions of Copacabana beach: “The Germans definitely deserved the gold medal. It was an excellent game and we've seen in the world that there is a lot of quality and the level of this game has improved all over the world.”
It was the second heartbreak of the night for the home crowd after America's Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross beat Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes in three sets 17-21, 21-17, 15-9 to take bronze. Walsh Jennings, the sport's most successful player ever with three gold medals, and London 2012 silver medallist Ross were tipped for the final ahead of the tournament. Walsh Jennings leaves Rio having lost only one Olympic beach volleyball match during her stellar career, the semi-final against Brazil’s Bednarczuk and Seixas.
After the bronze match, Walsh Jennings said: “As an athlete, I swear this is the hardest match I've ever played in my life. It was all perseverance. April Ross is the champ of the world right now. She played unbelievably. She got going and I eventually caught up, it took me a little bit too long for my taste, but when she’s on it makes me better and she was on point all night.”