Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Suwon Gymnastium, Suwon
Date Started: September 21, 1988
Date Finished: September 29, 1988
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to classification matches.
The women's field now consisted of eight teams for the first time. This still did not guarantee a very broad field of top nations, as three spots were reserved for continental champions (China, Ivory Coast and the US), and one for the host nation (South Korea). The remaining four places were earned at the 1986 World Championships (Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Norway) and the 1987 B World Championships (Yugoslavia).
The South Koreans had been in preparation for the tournament for years, training under isolated, Spartan conditions. This had not yet resulted in fame at the 1986 Worlds (12th), but paid off at the Olympics. They started off with a win against Czechoslovakia, but subsequently lost to Yugoslavia. Their win against the US secured Korea's spot in the final pool, but they would carry their lost match into the final pool. In the other group, Norway and the USSR easily held off China and Ivory Coast, and drew 19-19 to both qualify for the next round.
In that tense final group, the Soviets first defeated Yugoslavia, while Korea beat Norway. This meant three teams were still in a position to win the gold, and even Norway could still claim the silver medal. The Norwegian women pulled away from Yugoslavia 20-15, meaning they had secured at least a bronze. The unofficial final match between South Korea and the USSR was sold out, filled with enthusiastic Korean supporters. The agile Koreans pulled up to a 16-12 lead, but saw it disappear as the Soviets scored five times in a row to take the lead, 17-16. In a last-ditch effort, the hosts managed to come back in to the game, winning it 21-19 in front of an ecstatic crowd. The Soviet women fell back to third, as the Norwegian team claimed its first Olympic medal in the sport.