Beach Volleyball was first welcomed as an Olympic discipline at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and is now one of the most popular Olympic sports thanks to the professional athletes, a healthy and colourful ambience, exciting competition and entertainment, and the equal treatment of men and women.
Beach Volleyball at the Olympics
Atlanta 1996 was the first Olympic beach volleyball competition and it was a memorable start. Twenty four men's teams and 18 women's teams competed for Olympic medals on Atlanta Beach in July in a 10,000-seat stadium, with more than 107,000 spectators selling out the six-day event. Some 600 athletes representing 42 countries took part in the Olympic qualifying process. The United States' Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes won the first men's gold medals and Brazil's Jackie Silva and Sandra Pires won the first women's gold medals. Kiraly had previously won two Olympic Games gold medals in indoor Volleyball at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and the Seoul Games in 1988. In the men's tournament, USA's Mike Dodd and Mike Whitmarsh picked up silver and Canada's John Child and Mark Heese won bronze. In the women's tournament, Mônica Rodrigues and Adriana Samuel of Brazil claimed silver and Australia's Natalie Cook and Kerri-Ann Pottharst won bronze.
Four years after the overwhelming success of the first Olympic experience, Beach Volleyball become even more of a hit. The top 24 men's and women's teams in the world competed on Bondi Beach and put on a top-class event for the Olympic family of players, fans, media and sponsors. Cook and Pottharst improved on their bronze in 1996 to claim gold in the women's competition, with Brazilian pairs Adriana Behar and Shelda and Sandra Pires and Adriana Samuel taking home silver and bronze, respectively. In the men's event, USA's Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana won gold, Brazil's Ze Marco and Ricardo silver and Germany's Jörg Ahmann and Axel Hager bronze
With its new 10,000-seat main stadium built in the style of a traditional Greek amphitheatre, the beach volleyball venue and its surroundings provided an amazingly entertaining atmosphere at the Athens Games in 2004. A total of 24 men’s and women’s teams competed as Brazil's Ricardo and Emanuel won men's gold, with Spain's Javier Bosma and Pablo Herrera winning silver and Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel taking bronze while USA's Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won gold in the women’s event with Brazil's Adriana Behar and Shelda taking silver and USA's Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs bronze.
The fourth Olympic beach volleyball competition at Beijing 2008 again saw 24 women’s and 24 men’s teams competing against each other in a total of 108 matches, comprising 54 men's and 54 women's matches. The 12,000-seat Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground was the stunning venue for the tournaments. May-Treanor and Walsh won their second straight Olympic gold, beating Chinese pairs Jia Tian and Jie Wang and Zhang Xi and Xue Chen into second and third place, the two pairs collecting China's first-ever beach volleyball Olympic medals. Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers made it a USA double on the sand with gold in the men's event, with Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes of Brazil finishing second and Emanuel and Ricardo claiming third.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh finished in perfect fashion as they became the first team ever to win three Olympic beach volleyball gold medals, defeating fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross in straight sets. It was a great sendoff for May-Treanor, who retired from the sport immediately after the London Games. Brazil's Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Da Silva took bronze by beating Chen Xue and Zhang Xi of China 2-1. In the men's final, Germany’s Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann missed three match points, but won gold with the fourth as they beat Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego 2-1. They are the first European side to win an Olympic beach volleyball gold medal. Latvia’s Janis Smedins and Martins Plavins beat The Netherland’s Reinder Nummerdor and Richard Schuil in the bronze medal match to win Latvia’s first medal of London 2012.
Rio de Janeiro 2016
Beach volleyball returned to its spiritual home in a purpose-built 12,500-capaity stadium built on Copacabana Beach. It was filled for all three daily sessions and created a memorable atmosphere from morning to late in the night. The crowd was in raptures when Brazil’s leading men’s team of Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt added the Olympic title to the gold medals that they won at the Netherlands 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships. They defeated Italy’s Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo, while 2013 world champions Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen from the Netherlands claimed bronze. In the women’s tournament Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst broke Brazilian hearts when they beat Brazil’s reigning world champions Barbara Seixas and Agatha Bednarczuk to gold. Triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh-Jennings won her fourth Olympic medal when she and April Ross denied another team Brazilian team, Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes in the bronze medal match.