BEIJING: Brazil’s women’s volleyball team put an end to years of heartbreak by winning the Olympic gold medal for the first time in their history here on Saturday, defeating the United States by three sets to one.

The 25-15, 18-25, 25-13, 25-21 victory in a high-class final came after three straight semifinals and successive bronzes at the 1996 Atlanta Games and in Sydney four years later.

Defeat put paid to a fairytale finish for U.S. coach Lang Ping, a member of the China side that beat the United States in the 1984 Olympic women’s volleyball final in Los Angeles.

Now the Americans will look to their men for volleyball gold when they too face Brazil in their final here Sunday.

On Saturday, both sides matched each other spike for spike in the early stages while Brazilian libero Helia Sousa and her American counterpart Nicole Davis thrilled the packed crowd with brilliant defensive play.

Tense affair

The fourth set was tight and tense. Brazil went up 15-13 on Sheilla Castro’s spike, but the United States scored three straight points to go ahead.

Brazil challenged the lead, but couldn’t pull back out front until Marianne Steinbrecher’s spike knocked over Logan Tom and made it 21-20.

But Brazil scored the last four points and won it when Logan’s spike sailed out.

The U.S. women gathered in a tight hug, while the Brazilians danced. Tears were in their eyes, but they nonetheless raised their clasped hands upward.

Earlier, China beat Cuba 25-16, 21-25, 25-13, 25-20 to win the bronze. — Agencies

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