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02 Aug 1980
Moscow 1980

Soviet volleyball team grind out gold medal

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.

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