What we learned: Volleyball wrap-up from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

France’s men and United States’ women both did the unprecedented: brought their countries home their first volleyball gold medals. Take a look at volleyball’s most memorable moments at Tokyo 2020, a medal recap, and what we have to look forward to at Paris 2024. 

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Volleyball at Tokyo 2020, in 2021 was as unpredictable as it was enthralling.

Both men’s and women’s competitions saw countries never before crowned Olympic champions.

The women of the United States, who had been hunting for so long finally added gold to their wanting medal collection after they beat Brazil in the final 3-0.

As for France, who came in without a doubt as tournament underdogs given that this was the fourth ever Olympic Games the men had every qualified for, they bested ROC in a five set thriller 3-2 to win their first ever volleyball gold medal.

Below, we take a look back at the most memorable moments in the volleyball competition, provide a recap of the medal winners and tell you who to look out for at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Olympic volleyball
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Top 5 volleyball moments at Tokyo 2020

1- Earvin Ngapeth lifts France to first volleyball gold

When you're bidding to make history in volleyball having an outside hitter on scintillating form definitely helps.

Cue Earvin Ngapeth.

Even in the final the 30-year-old led from the front for France, scoring 21 attacks, two blocks and three aces it what was an exciting match.

ROC initially looked like they would take the opening set, until a late rally by France saw Les Bleus put one on the board first (25-23).

The Frenchmen then carried on their steady scoring rhythm to clinch the second set.

ROC however, came back fighting. They pushed France all the way to level, leaving the gold medal to be determined by a tie-breaking fifth set.

A drop shot from Antoine Brizard followed by an out of bounds hit from ROC signalled victory for France.

For his performance in the final and his all-around tournament efforts, Ngapeth was honoured with the titles of Most Valuable Player and Best Outside Hitter by Volleyball World.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

2- U.S ends cycle of hurt with first Olympic gold

An Olympic gold medal had been a long time coming for Team USA.

Silver at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, then bronze at Rio 2016, when the women's team landed in Tokyo 2020 as world number one there was only one metal colour on their mind.

After efficiently neutralising Serbia in the semi-finals - the same team that denied them a shot at the gold medal in Rio - the U.S. showed they meant business.

Captain Jordan Larson, who made her third and likely last Olympic appearance in Japan, delivered the final spike that sealed an emphatic final 3-0 victory against Brazil.

Her personal pain of falling short twice before quickly slipped away - gold was now finally hers.

3- Tijana Boskovic: boss of point scoring

Two-time Olympic medallist Tijana Boskovic showed at Tokyo 2020 why she is deemed to be one of the very best volleyball players in the world.

In the bronze medal match alone, the 24-year-old put up 33 points, to help her country sweep South Korea aside 3-0 (25-18 25-15 25-15).

Boskovic leaves Japan, not only a bronze medallist, but also ranked number one in the tournament for best scorer, with 165 attacks, 15 blocks and 12 serves.

Tijana Boskovic
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

4- Argentina versus Brazil: an Olympic rivalry for the ages

A rivalry of old was revisited in the men's volleyball tournament and concluded it what was yet another tense five set encounter.

Argentina held their nerve to take bronze against defending champions Brazil 3-2 (25-23 20-25 20-25 25-17 15-13).

The bragging rights belonged to Argentina after the Brazilians crumbled in the fourth set, despite comfortably taking the second and third.

The three-time Olympic gold medalists surged early in the tie-breaker but the men from Argentina remained steadfast, absorbing the pressure and winning accordingly.

Argentina Volleyball
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

5- Defending Olympic champions China knocked out at group stages

Perhaps the biggest shock in either tournament came from the surprise exit of the People's Republic of China at the conclusion of the group stages in the women's competition.

The country, who had been triumphant in Rio 2016, fives years ago, lost to the U.S., ROC and Turkey in the preliminary rounds meaning advancing in the competition became impossible.

Failure to make the quarterfinals marks China's worst ever finish at the Olympics since 1984.

China Volleyball
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

One to watch

Tokyo 2020 was Fernanda Rodrigues of Brazil's final Olympic outing and the 35-year-old outside hitter made sure from start to finish, it would be one to remember.

Rodrigues not only left Japan's capital as Brazil's best scorer but also ranked third best from across the tournament. She put up 106 attacks, 9 blocks and 5 aces to total 120 scores for her country.

Fernanda Rodrigues
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Hello Paris

After their unexpected victory at Tokyo 2020, the men of France will surely be the ones to keep an eye out for at Paris 2024 as they try to defend their Olympic title on their home turf.

The Olympic volleyball events will both be held in the Paris Expo, an exhibition and convention centre which is anticipated to become a hive of activity during the Games.

France volleyball
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

When and where to watch volleyball replays on Olympics.com

The answer is: olympics.com/tokyo2020-replays

When will volleyball athletes compete next?

The FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championships will feature 24 teams and will take place from 26 August - 11 September in 2022. The Netherlands and Poland will be joint hosts.

The FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championships will also involve 24 teams and will take place from 26 August - 11 September in 2022. Russia will host this tournament.

Full medals list for volleyball at Tokyo 2020

Women’s event

Gold: United States

Silver: Brazil

Bronze: Serbia

Men's event

Gold: France

Silver: ROC

Bronze: Argentina


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