German women beat Brazil for Olympic beach volleyball gold
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) On their left was the United States, the birthplace of beach volleyball and the most successful country in its Olympic history.
To their right was one of two Brazilian women's teams to reach the medal round on their home sand at Copacabana beach, the sport's spiritual home.
But there on the top step of the medal podium were Germany's Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst, claiming the second straight Olympic gold medal for their homeland and establishing it as a power in the beach volleyball world.
''I'm speechless,'' Ludwig said after the 21-18, 21-14 victory over Brazil's reigning world champions on Wednesday night.
Four years after the German men claimed the country's first Olympic beach volleyball title, Ludwig and Walkenhorst beat the reigning world champions from Brazil to give the country its first women's beach volleyball medal.
''My feeling was, `If they can do it, we can do it,''' said Ludwig, who finished fifth in 2012 and was in the stands for the men's final in London. ''It's a pity because never in a big tournament have we (German women) had this success. But, also: happy because we are the first.''
Agatha and Barbara took silver just hours after Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross beat Brazil's other women's team. Larissa and Talita lost in the semifinals to the Germans, spoiling the hosts' hopes for an all-Brazilian final.
''We would have liked a final with the Brazilians. It would have been very beautiful,'' Agatha said. ''But the Germans deserved the final, and they deserved the medal.''
With top-seeded Alison and Bruno in the men's final against Italy on Thursday, the hosts have clinched no worse than a silver, with a chance for its first gold since 2004.
''Of course, we wanted to win the match. But we are very proud about the medal. I think all Brazilians are proud about this medal,'' Agatha said. ''We have one medal and we must be happy with the silver. We have one more chance with the men.''
The Americans in the crowd seemed to all stick around for the medal ceremony that started after 1 a.m. local time. And the Germans waving their tricolor flag were just as loud when their women were presented with the gold.
But many Brazilians began heading for the exits during the final points in the championship match - it was late, and anyway it was a disappointing night for the host nation with two losses in as many matches.
The German women had never won a medal in beach volleyball. The country's men hadn't reached the Olympic podium since a bronze on Bondi Beach in Sydney in 2000 until Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann took gold in London, beating Brazil in the final.
But Ludwig and Walkenhorst pulled away midway through the first set and played better in a wind that picked up during the night.
''We said, `We'll take the storm and make our own storm,''' Ludwig said.