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16 Oct 1968
Mexico 1968

Soviet teams secure impressive volleyball double

The Soviet Union came to Mexico with hopes of winning two gold medals in the volleyball competitions. Four years earlier the men had taken gold, the women silver – this time, the expectation was of double triumph.

For the men, though, the competition could hardly have started any worse. They were beaten by the US in their opening match, despite leading the match by two sets to one. In their second game, the Soviet malaise continued as the first set was lost against Brazil – but then came the fightback. Brazil were eventually beaten 3-1 and victory followed victory, some of them close, such as a 3-2 win over East Germany, some of them dominant – Belgium scoring just ten points during a 3-0 defeat.
The decisive match in the competition saw the Soviet Union pitted against Japan, the nation that had narrowly missed out on the gold four years before in Tokyo. Then, the Japanese had been inspired by their home support; in Mexico, they again had the support of the spectators and raced to the first set with the loss of just four points.

But the Soviet team came back. The game went level at 1-1 after a close second set, and then the Soviet Union went 2-1 up as the third set went to them too. The fourth set proved to be the final one – the Soviet taking it by a 15-13 margin to retain the title.
Now the sport's attention turned to the women's event and, once again, it was the Soviet and Japanese teams who were the class of the field. Just as in the men's competition, it was the match between the two nations that was to decide fate of the gold medal and, just as with the men, it was a close encounter that the Soviet Union won with a 3-1 margin. The Soviet athletes were not always popular – some of the crowd booed them in protest at their country's politics – but the team concentrated on their sport and came away as champions.

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