Rio de Janeiro — 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
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
Also read: Rio Olympics: Dream Team succumb to German power
Others covered their heads with the ever-present green and
yellow flags but still managed to sing and samba the reigning world champions
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
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.For
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