France’s search for gold at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was met with success at Ariake Arena on Saturday, when Earvin Ngapeth led his teammates to a 3-2 (25-23, 25-17, 21-25, 21-25, 15-12) win over ROC to seize their first Olympic gold medal in history.
Ngapeth guides France to Olympic glory
France make history in Tokyo and will defend their Olympic title in Paris
Published 02:55, 07 Aug 2021
France first played at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, then played at Barcelona 1992, Athens 2004 and Rio 2016.
As the next Olympic Games hosts, the Frenchmen will defend their Olympic title at home, three years from now, at Paris 2024.
Ngapeth led by example for France with 21 attacks, two blocks and three aces. Jean Patry contributed 15 markers from the right flank, while Trevor Clevenot manned the left flank and produced 11 points. Maxim Mikhaylov and Egor Kliuka had 21 and 20 points, respectively, for ROC.
“I prepared well mentally for this match. I had to keep smiling and provide that calm feeling to my teammates. I felt good today but the ROC almost put doubt on my mind but we managed to remain calm and nobody was shut out. We didn’t give up and that made the difference.” Earvin Ngapeth
ROC opened the match with back-to-back points off an attack by Mikhaylov and an error by Patry. France tied the score from a ROC error and an Ngapeth spike. The set remained tight but Mikaylov and Ivan Iakovlev’s attacking and blocking gave ROC a 20-17 edge.
Antoine Brizard stepped in to serve for France and helped his team back into the set. Ngapeth gave his side two attack winners to reach set point, then Clevenot’s down-the-line spike completed the French comeback in the opening set at 25-23.
France got into a good scoring rhythm as soon as Ngapeth scored their third point in the second set. The French outside hitter added three more attacks and a block to increase their lead to 10-5.
Ngapeth dominated in the succeeding plays as he added another block and a service ace and a couple more points to record eight markers in the second set. Nicolas Le Goff and Patry added more firepower to the French side to gain a 2-0 set advantage.
The third set started evenly between the two teams with a trade of points on attacks by France’s Ngapeth and Patry and ROC’s Mikhaylov, Egor Kliuka and Ilyas Kurkaev. ROC managed to gain a two-point edge at 21-19 off Ngapeth’s turnovers.
ROC reached set point with the help of Yaroslav Podlesnykh’s contributions from the attack and service lines, until Brizard’s service error gave away the third set to ROC at 25-21.
Patry, Brizard and Clevenot powered the offence for France to gain a 7-3 lead in the fourth set, but Podlesnykh and Pavel Pankov’s defence later tied the score at 8-all. Both sides kept things even until ROC gained momentum from the attack winners of Iakovlev and Kliuka to lead 15-13.
ROC's offence was enhanced by Mikhaylov and Kliuka who helped gain a 19-17 lead. ROC likewise worked patiently on defence, which allowed better opportunities for counterattack. Iakovlev’s block on Patry extended the match to a fifth set at 25-21.
ROC led 3-0 at the start of the tiebreaker, but Ngapeth fought hard to get his side level at 8-all. France got a 10-8 advantage from a ROC service blunder and Clevenot’s spike, but the ROC athletes responded quickly to level the score.
Patry’s swing from the right-flank and ace gave France a two-point cushion, prompting a ROC timeout. A drop shot from Brizard gave match point and then Mikhaylov’s attack triggered the French celebration as it went out of bounds at 15-12.
The French team deserved this victory 100 per cent. It was difficult to go through the qualification round and they faced a lot of tough opponents and have won against them. And now they have won against us. The harder the way that you take, the more joy you will have from your victory." Igor Kobzar