The history of the Olympic Games is full of dramatic, emotional and beautiful moments that took place in finals. Every week, relive the most incredible ones you can remember on video. This week, we look at the 2016 men’s beach volleyball final.
- Beach volleyball men's final, Rio 2016 Olympic Games
- Italy vs Brazil
- Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 19 August 2016
It’s almost a miracle that the Italian pair Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo made it through to the second round. The Italians, who finished fifth in London four years earlier, could only manage one win and two losses as they finished third in Pool C. They qualified for the playoffs as lucky losers and needed to dig deep in every game from Round 16 onwards to reach the final.
On the other hand, the Brazilian world number ones Bruno Schmidt and Alison Cerutti had a relatively easy route to the final that included a dominant win against the powerful American duo Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in their quarter-final.
The key moment
Brazil were strong favourites for the gold. However, it would have been a big mistake to underestimate an Italian team that had recorded a huge upset at London 2012 when they defeated reigning gold medallists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers.
From the very beginning, in a rain-soaked stadium in front of an eagerly-expectant crowd, both teams knew that every point would be vital. The Brazilians even challenged the very first point, claiming the Italian team had touched the ball.
Italy began strongly, but the home team patiently made their way back into the game, with a fantastic block by Cerutti bringing the duo level at 8-8. The rest of the first set was a close-fought battle, which Brazil finally won 21-19.
The second set began in much the same fashion, with the Italians pushing hard without managing to break the home team. At 14-14 the key moment arrived. Schmidt produced yet another great defensive play, which was followed by a massive block by Cerutti that put the Brazil team ahead 16-14. It proved to be the crucial point, as the Brazilian team, lifted by the noise from the crowd, ended the set 21-17 to claim the gold medal.
While Brazil are considered to be a beach volleyball powerhouse (they had won four gold medals prior to Rio), the gold medal they won at home was their first in 12 years.
"I don't have the words to describe how I'm feeling," said Cerutti.
"To win at Copacabana is the Maracana of beach volleyball. There has been so much pressure to handle. It was the most difficult time in my whole life."
The Italian pair were gracious in defeat, recognising the superiority of their opponents: "We gave all we had but our opponents deserved to win. They have been dominant for three years,” said Nicolai.
Four years later, the European team have already qualified for Tokyo 2020 and Nicolai has been positive about the duo's prospects: “I think we are playing better than in Rio, we are more consistent in our game, but the level is going up year after year.”
Sadly, there is no chance of a rematch, as the Brazilian pair no longer play together. Schmidt now plays with Evandro Gonçalves while Cerutti competes alongside Alvaro Filho, with both teams vying for a spot in Tokyo next year.