Brazil wins beach volleyball gold medal in rain
Brazil's Alison and Bruno won the men's beach volleyball gold medal on Thursday night, rallying from deficits in both sets to beat Italy in a steady rain.
The 21-19, 21-17 victory over Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai sparked a Carioca party one night after losses in the women's bronze- and gold-medal matches left the hosts with just two total medals in a sport they love and were expected to dominate.
The Netherlands beat Russia earlier Thursday in the men's bronze-medal match.
Italy opened a 5-1 lead in the championship's first set before the hosts rallied to win. In the second, Brazil trailed by three before scoring 11 of the next 15 points to take a 19-15 lead.
Alison delivered his sixth block on the game-winner, knocking it off Lupo for the first of what the referee ruled were four touches — one too many. The Italians disputed the call of four touches, but by the time the score hit the scoreboard the 6-foot-8 player known as "Mammoth" was already celebrating near the stands.
Fans covered themselves in plastic ponchos but still managed to wave their flags and celebrate each point scored by the locals. As he has throughout the tournament, Alison egged on the crowd, pointing to his ear to encourage them to yell louder after the Brazilians rallied from the early deficit.
Others covered their heads with the ever-present green and yellow flags but still managed to sing and samba the reigning world champions to victory.
The victory helped salvage what had been a bit of a disappointment for the Brazilian beach volleyball teams, who stepped onto their home sand with the top two women's seeds and two of the top four on the men's side.
Pedro and Evandro failed to make it out of the round of 16, and the top-seeded women's teams collected only a silver medal.
Even with the loss, it was cause for celebration in Europe.
No European country had ever won a medal in women's beach volleyball — or even reached the final four — before Germany beat one Brazilian team in the semifinal and another in the championship to claim the gold.
With the Dutch bronze and Italian silver on the men's side, the three medals were an Olympic high for the continent. Heading into the Rio Games, the sport had been dominated by Brazilians and Americans, who combined to win 20 of a possible 30 medals.
"I don't think we have to talk about it being the Brazilians and the Americans anymore," Alexander Brouwer after he joined with Robert Meeuwsen to win 23-21, 22-20 and earn the Netherlands' first beach medal. "Of course, it's where the sport was invented. But if you talk about it now, we are on an even level."
After surviving two set points, the Russian Viacheslav Krasilnikov threw his hat aside in disgust when the winning point sailed off his hand and out of bounds. Brouwer screamed before embracing his teammate.