The United States won their first ever gold medal, following their 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-14) win over two-time champions Brazil on Sunday in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 women’s gold medal match at Ariake Arena.
Drews shines as USA strike gold in Tokyo
USA complete Olympic medal collection with Tokyo 2020 gold
Published 06:07, 08 Aug 2021
USA had three silver medal finishes at Los Angeles 1984, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and two third place finishes at Barcelona 1992 and Rio 2016. The North American squad finally bagged gold, which was the only missing medal in their Olympic collection. They lost to China in 1984 and lost against Brazil in 2008 and 2012.
Annie Drews led USA with Michelle Bartsch-Hackley as they scored 15 and 14 points, respectively. Captain Jordan Larson added 12 points – all from the attack line. Fe Garay and Gabi Guimaraes made 11 and 10 points for Brazil.
It hasn’t been a smooth ride for a lot of us. It’s never the way you want to receive playing time and you have to earn it, but the big resounding message is that we are 12-strong. Jordan Thompson and I have been putting an emphasis on getting the job done collectively. Annie Drews
Michelle Bartsch-Hackley’s two attacks started a 4-0 run for USA in the opening set. USA gave Brazil their first point in the match off a service error by Foluke Akinradewo, but even that break could not spark a run as the USA hitters kept scoring.
Brazil battled through with better defence and succeeded to trim the USA lead to just one point at 15-14. However, Larson and Bartsch-Hackley teamed-up for another scoring spree that stretched their lead. Brazil had their scoring surge late in the set and cut the lead to 24-21, but Bartsch-Hackley put away the set with a kill for the 25-21 USA win in the first set.
USA and Brazil were matched evenly in attacks in the second set, but with fewer turnovers and a slight edge in blocks and aces, USA took a 20-15 lead. Gabi and Fe Garay jumpstarted a Brazilian comeback, but Annie Drews’ productive performance in the set was enough to safeguard the USA lead. An exchange in service errors closed the second set in favour of USA at 25-20.
By the third set, momentum was completely on the USA side as Brazil were startled and intimidated by the USA attack and block. The three-time VNL winners likewise defended well on the floor to set up strong counterattacks.
The USA lead ballooned to nine points with just five points to play for USA to complete the sweep. At 20-11, USA gained their points off Natalia and Gabi’s attack mishits and Carol Gattaz’s service blunder to inch closer at 23-13. Drews’ stuff block gave match point, then Jordan Larson delivered the final blow to win gold for USA at 25-14.
USA just played their best game in this tournament. I also want to congratulate my teammates because we made it this far. We were not the favourites to reach the final, but we still made it here. We are taking this silver as gold because it took five long years to come back. We are all proud of how we fought in this tournament. Natalia Pereira
With the gold medal achievement, USA coach Karch Kiraly becomes the second person in Olympic history to have won gold both as player (Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988) and coach (Tokyo 2020) after Lang Ping (Los Angeles 1984 & Rio 2016). In addition, Kiraly has also won Olympic gold in beach volleyball (Atlanta 1996).
The goal here was not to help Karch win a fourth medal but it was to help the USA women become Olympic champions. In 11 previous Olympics, our women had three silver medals and two bronze medals, but no gold. What hit me was that powerful emotion to help this team and programme make history. Karch Kiraly