Host City: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Venue(s): MaracanÃ£zinho, MaracanÃ£, Rio de Janeiro
Date Started: August 7, 2016
Date Finished: August 21, 2016
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
Like the menâs event, 12 countries took part in a total of 38 matches. Brazil qualified automatically as hosts, and were joined by the top two teams in the 2015 FIVB World Cup in Japan, China and Serbia. Also qualified were the winners of five Continental Olympic Qualification Tournaments in Africa (Cameroon), Asia (Japan), Europe (Russia), NORCECA - North, Central America & Caribbean - (USA) and South America (Argentina). The compliment of 12 teams was made up with four teams (Italy, Netherlands, South Korea and Puerto Rico) coming through two Olympic Qualification Tournaments held in Japan and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Of the top eight seeds, only Italy failed to qualify for the quarter-finals and with it ended [Eleonora Lo Bianco]âs hope of a first Olympic medal in her fifth attempt. The defending champions and top seeds Brazil won pool A in spectacular fashion, winning all five matches, and without dropping a set. They came into the tournament as the winners of the FIVB World Grand Prix shortly before the Olympics. The 2013 and 2015 European Champions Russia, and the two Asian entrants, South Korea and Japan, joined Brazil in the quarter-finals out of pool A. Only three matches in this pool went beyond three sets and only one, between the bottom two teams, Cameroon and Argentina went to five sets.
In pool B, the reigning World champions, the United States, were nearly as impressive as Brazil, winning all five matches, but they lost five sets in the process and had to come from a set down in their final match against the 2015 World Cup winners China to win 3-1. China lost three of their five pool matches but just squeezed through to the quarters in fourth place behind both the Netherlands and Serbia, who had finished second to China in the World Cup. The Netherlands engaged in three five-setters in this pool. Firstly they came from 2-1 down against China to win 15-13 in the tie-break set, and then they threw away a 2-1 lead against the USA to lose 2-3 and with a place in the last eight assured they threw away a 2-0 lead to Serbia only to clinch victory 15-8 in the fifth set.
The Netherlands, USA and Serbia all eased into the semi-finals with little difficulty against, respectively, South Korea, Japan and Russia, but the final quarter-final clash between China and Brazil was an epic contest between the 2nd and 3rd teams on the FIVB ranking list. Brazil took the first set 25-15 before China won the next two 25-23, 25-22 before Brazil levelled it at two-sets all before China made it through to the last four with a 15-13 win in the fifth set in the longest womenâs match of the tournament, lasting 2hr 14m.
It was far easier for China in the semi-final as they disposed of the Netherlands 3-1, and in a match that swung both ways, Serbia eventually overcame the USA 15-13 in the fifth set in the other semi. The Americans had the consolation of beating the Netherlands 3-1 in the third-place match and thus emulate their men by taking bronze.
The final was between world ranked number two, China and the sixth ranked Serbia, and it was the Europeans who opened up a lead by taking the first set 25-19 before China then took control and proved to be too strong for their opponents, winning the next three sets 25-17, 25-22, 25-23 to secure a 3-1 victory and their third Olympic gold medal and first since 2004. A member of their first gold-medal winning team at Los Angeles in 1984 was [Lang Ping], coach of the 2016 team. For the Serbian women, they had the honour of winning their countryâs first ever Olympic volleyball medal. Chinaâs [Zhu Ting] won the MVP, just as she had done in the 2015 World Cup.