Olympics beach volleyball has a history of playing critical matches in the rain, such as Misty May/Kerri Walsh (USA) vs. Tian Jia/Wang Jie (China) in the gold-medal match in Beijing 2008, Larissa Franca/Juliana Felisberta (Brazil) vs. April Ross/Jen Kessy(USA) in the semifinals in London 2012, and now Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt (Brazil) vs. Paolo Nicolai/Daniele Lupo (Italy) in Thursday’s gold-medal match.
And finally a Brazilian pair broke through to gold, as Cerutti/Schmidt and the crowd of 8,199 mostly Brazilian fans powered through the steady rain to a 21-19, 21-17 victory.
“It was amazing because we are so close to our friends and family, it’s wonderful,” Alison said. “The Brazilian people deserve this. It is incredible. It is amazing because here it is the Maracana of beach volleyball.”
Bruno added, “There is something magical behind these Games. It was something I wanted so badly my whole career. Today is my dream that has come true in front of Brazilians and my whole family. It is something magical that I will have my whole life.”
In set one, Italy raced off to a 5-1 start on a Lupo dig and two Nicolai aces. Brazil crawled back and drew even with an Alison block of Lupo for 8-8, followed by a Bruno dig and conversion for 9-8.
An Alison block made it 11-9, and then his block allowed Bruno to go over on one successfully for 13-10 lead.
Nine side-outs later, an Alison pokey fell wide to pull the Italians to 17-16, and an Alison hitting error headed towards the cheap seats to tie it 17-17.
Italy cracked first, with Nicolai spiking a ball wide at 18-18. Brazil won the set on the first game point, with Alison blocking Lupo on an attempt to tool Alison.
Set two began with Italy nosing ahead on a Nicolai ace and block, but Brazil managed to stay within three. Alison put together two blocks to it 11-11.
Six side-outs later, Brazil took its first lead with a Bruno dig and an Alison block to make it 16-14.
Bruno had two digs/put-aways to reach 19-15 and then closed out the match on an Alison first ball sideout at 21-17, igniting the Brazilian celebration at nearly 1 a.m. local time.
“It will take a few weeks to understand what we did in front of our home fans in the best place to play this sport,” Bruno said. “We’ve had so much pressure to handle in these two weeks. I wasn’t sleeping well and this is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I believed in what I did.
Brazil finished with 15 digs to Italy’s five, and also led in blocks, six to five.
“It was amazing to play an Olympic final.,” Lupo said. “We knew that the crowd was against us but I’m happy to be here after a very difficult year. We just hope that from now on beach volleyball will grow even more in Italy.
“We are happy with our medal even though we are a bit disappointed we lost. But we will have to put this loss behind us and go and celebrate at home. We now want to go to Tokyo (in 2020) and win another medal.”
Earlier in the evening, when it was only a light drizzle, the No. 2-ranked Dutch team of Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen came away with the Netherland’s first beach volleyball bronze medal over Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov/Konstantin Semenov 23-21, 22-20.
The match was a powerful display of big-boy volleyball, as the Dutch and Russians exchanged huge spikes over and over.
“What a match,” Brouwer said. “That first set they were leading, but even when we’re behind we keep fighting and stayed aggressive.”
The Dutch service and receive was simply a little better than the Russians’, as Semenov’s passing errors were the difference, contributing to Russia’s 12 attack errors while the Dutch committed only eight.
“We took a lot of risks with our serve-block,” Brouwer said. “I think that was rewarding for us. I am really happy to take this bronze here.
Semenov and Meeuwsen had five blocks each.
“It was terrible, we lost,” Semenov said. “They played as they did as usual, but it was about us. We played worse than usual.”