Host City: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Venue(s): Copacabana Stadium, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
Date Started: August 6, 2016
Date Finished: August 17, 2016
Format: Top 16 teams from round-robin pools advanced to the single-elimination tournament.
Despite being number three in the FIVB World Tour Rankings, the American pair of [Kerri Walsh Jennings] and [April Ross] were favourites for gold in Rio, largely due to Walsh Jenningsâs record of never having lost a match at the Olympics. She had won 21 straight games and dropped just one set in three Olympics that saw her as champion (with [Misty May]) in 2004, 2008 and 2012. Her new partner, Ross, was a silver medalist in London four years earlier. Strangely, the new pairing reached only the last 16 at the 2015 World Championship, losing to the Chinese pair of [Wang Fan] and [Yue Yuan], in a tournament that saw the Brazilian women dominate all three medal places with [BÃ¡rbara Seixas] and [Ãgatha Bednarczuk] taking gold. They were considered serious contenders for the gold medal on home sand in Rio, as were the other local favourites [Larissa FranÃ§a] and [Talita Antunes]. The two Brazilian teams were seeded one and two in Rio, with Walsh Jennings and Ross number three, and with the German world number ones [Laura Ludwig] and [Kira Walkenhorst] ranked four.
As expected, Walsh Jennings and Ross qualified for the final 16 but not until a tense final match against the Swiss girls [Isabelle Forrer] and [Anouk VergÃ©-DÃ©prÃ©]. The Americans won 21-13, 22-24, 15-12 and it was the first set they had dropped in the 2016 competition and only the second that Walsh Jennings had dropped in her Olympic career. Larissa and Talita qualified without dropping a set as did [Elsa Baquerizo] and [Liliana FernÃ¡ndez] of Spain. A vastly experienced duo, the Spaniards were one of six teams (men and women) to have competed at both London 2012 and Rio 2016, but they had the distinction of being the partnership who had played together the most and their opening game in Rio was their 420th match together. Perhaps the biggest names to fail to make it through the qualifying matches were those of the Americans [Lauren Fendrick] and [Brooke Sweat] who finished bottom of their group.
The clash of the last 16 was between Larissa and Talita and the German seventh seeds, [Karla Borger] and [Britta BÃ¼the] and it was the home favourites who came through 21-17, 21-19. The Spaniards Elsa and Liliana put up a great fight in losing to the FIVB 23rd ranked pair [Yekaterina Birlova] and [Yevgeniya Ukolova] of Russia, 21-23, 22-24, while the reigning world champions BÃ¡rbara and Ãgatha won 21-12, 21-16 against the Chinese pair Wang and Yue. Kerry Walsh Jennings remained on course for her fourth consecutive gold medal with a straight sets win over the Italians [Marta Menegatti] and [Laura Giombini], who came into the Italian team just three days before it started, after Viktoria Orsi Toth was banned after testing positive for a banned substance.
The Brazilian duos of Larissa and Talita and BÃ¡rbara and Ãgatha reached the semi-finals, but Larissa and and Talita only did so after winning the match of the tournament against the Swiss pair [Joana Heidrich] and [Nadine Zumkehr] 21-23, 27-25, 15-13. The four Brazilians were joined in the semis by Ludwig and Walkenhorst of Germany and Ross and Walsh Jennings, who celebrated her quarter-final victory on her 38th birthday.
The semi-finalists were made up of the top four seeds and it was a mixed day for the partisan Brazilian crowd. Firstly they had to witness top seeds Larissa and Talita lose in straight sets to the Germans 21-18, 21-12, but then they witnessed a piece of Olympic beach volleyball history as American Kerri Walsh Jennings lost her first ever match at the Olympics as second seeds BÃ¡rbara and Ãgatha won 22-20, 21-18 against Walsh Jennings and April Ross. Prior to this match Walsh Jennings had only lost two sets in her 26-match Olympic career, now that figure had doubled.
In the bronze medal match, which many expected to be the gold medal match before the start of the tournament, Walsh Jennings and Ross looked down and out midway through the second set against Larissa and Talita after losing the first 21-17 and were trailing by three points in the second, but the American girls picked themselves up and set up a deciding set with a 21-17 win. Walsh Jennings made some crucial blocks in the third as the Americans ran out 15-9 winners,
In the final, BÃ¡rbara and Ãgatha were the first Brazilian pair to appear in a womenâs final since 2004 and were hoping to become only the second Brazilian winners of the gold medal after [Sandra Pires] and [Jackie Silva] in 1976. For Germany it was their first appearance in the final and they were guaranteed their first ever womenâs medal. Whilst the Brazilians had the fervent support of the packed Copacabana Beach Arena behind them, they were no match for the Germanâs Ludwig and Walkenhorst. A neck-and-neck first set played in a strong wind, saw the lead change hands five times and was eventually won by the Germans 21-18, but in the second set the European girls led from the start and ran out comfortable 21-14 winners to capture their first ever medal, and the first ever womenâs beach volleyball medal by a European country as they emulated their male counterparts [Julius Brink] and [Jonas Reckermann] who won gold in 2012.