USA retain women’s sitting volleyball crown after they defeat China in dramatic final

TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 05:  Team United States pose after winning the Gold Medal after the Final Women's Sitting Volleyball match on day 12 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall on September 05, 2021 in Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 05: Team United States pose after winning the Gold Medal after the Final Women's Sitting Volleyball match on day 12 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall on September 05, 2021 in Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Celebrations as USA overpower China 3-0 in a thrilling final to retain their Paralympic crown while Brazil claim bronze on the final day of competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

USA continued their dominance of women’s sitting volleyball by overpowering China in a thrilling final to retain their Paralympic crown.

The squad, which brought an end to China’s unbeaten run at the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016, did it again in impressive form to win 3-1 (25-12, 25-20, 22-25, 25-19) on the last day of competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

It was a fast and furious match with China's ZHAO Meiling opening the scoreline with the first spike, but the Americans immediately responded with two from Kathryn Holloway and Lora Webster.

Setter Kaleo Kanahele Maclay, who won silver in London 2012 and gold in Rio 2016, was the USA’s key player in keeping the points flowing. Holloway slammed home another spike at 10-6 and the team motored towards the end of the first set, with Heather Erickson taking it in 25-12 in just 19 minutes.

The second set opened again with a point from China with XU Yixiao getting in the first spike, but after Maclay’s 39kmh serve, which was picked up by WANG Yanan, Erickson slammed home another spike, her seventh of the match.

It took just four minutes for the Americans to be up 8-3. China edged back with Wang getting a spike in after a dig error by Webster, but the USA pulled away and were soon up 12-6.

After time out at 13-6, China regrouped as TANG Xuemei, who was a gold medallist in London 2012, immediately smashed a spike passed Holloway. Zhang got a second in, but then Erickson hit home a winner, before Tang replied after a dig error by Matthews.

At 16-10 to the Americans it seemed only a question of time before they closed out the set, but China’s Xu and Wang had other ideas. They both set up a series of spikes and the scoreline got to 19-17. At two points adrift of their opponents, they levelled, but Matthews 11th spike of the match sealed the second set 25-20.

Going into the third, America was just a set away from back-to-back golds. Holloway opened with two points in quick succession. China got two back and the scoreline was drawn but Matthews got in her 12th spike to push them ahead. But Wang was pivotal in changing the score line with a series of spikes and the country was soon leading 10-8.

Holloway and Erickson levelled the score but China pulled away again. The points changed back and forth until China sealed the set 25-22 after 25 minutes.

The nation was more confident going into the fourth and denied the USA the opportunity to pull away with a series of points by Xu and LYU Hongqin. At 21-17 it was all to play for until USA claimed a block. China came back fighting with a point by Lyu, but Erickson, who had impressed throughout the match, set a spike at 24 and the matched was closed out after a reception error by Zhang at 25-19.

When the final bell went the USA team erupted in cheers and hugs. It had been a long battle. On their way to the final USA, who were also silver medallists in London 2012 and Beijing 2008 and bronze medallists in Athens 2004, had not conceded a set. They beat China in an earlier heat as well as Rwanda and the Russian Paralympic Committee before overpowering Brazil in the semifinal.

In the women’s bronze medal sitting volleyball match, Brazil came out on top with a 3-1 (25-15, 24-26, 26-24, 25-14) win over Canada. Their compatriot Para swimming legend Daniel Dias, who retired this week as the sport’s most successful Paralympian with 27 medals, was in the arena to cheer them on.