They jumped, they smashed and they won. Unstoppable Brazil won their first ever Olympic gold medal in women's volleyball after beating the United States 3-1 on Saturday.
The Americans took home the second silver after the one from the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
Brazil, playing ballet-like delicate passing and samba-like quick smashing, turned the first clash between the two teams at Beijing Games into an artistic 25-15, 18-25, 25-13 and 25-21 victory.
The two sides fought closely at the opener before 10-all, when Brazil, led by ace spikers Sheilla Castro and Fabiana Claudino, launched a stunning 10-1 run to establish a solid foundation for victory 20-11.
American wing spiker Logan Tom scored three points in row and Heather Bown added one more to pull back 15-23, but Paula Pequeno immediately responded with a kill spike and an ace serve to clinch the set for Brazil 25-15.
The U.S. found their rhythm after veteran setter Lindsey Berg was sent to the court and their stormy serves destroyed the Brazilian reception.
Starting within 8-3, the Americans maintained winning momentum and enlarged the gap to 22-16. Danielle Scott-Arruda helped the U.S. take the match point 24-18 with a kill block and a quick middle court spike, but it was Tom who sealed the victory 25-18 with an unanswered spike.
The world's No. 1 Brazil, who sailed into the final without losing a single set, showed their true colors at the third set by strengthening blocking and serving. A decisive Brazil took the effortless set 25-13.
The fourth set had been a tit-for-tat battle before a 21-21 draw, when Kim Glass gave the advantage to Brazil with a serve error. Claudino and Castro helped the Brazil take the match points 24-21 with kill blocks, but it was American Tom who blew the ball out, as well as their chance to go further. Brazil won the match 25-21.
Earlier in the bronze medal match, China upset Cuba 3-1.
The defending champion, shrugging off the humiliating straight-set loss to Brazil in the semifinals, won the morale-boosting match, 25-16, 21-25, 25-13 and 25-20.
Although the host easily won the first set, Cuba, three-time champion in 1992, 1996 and 2000 fought back to win the second set. But China's powerful serving and solid blocking overpowered the Cubans who failed to win another set.
(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2008)