2021 Rewind: Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Looking back at incredible volleyball and beach volleyball action in Tokyo

This year, volleyball returned to its Olympic birthplace for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, 57 years after the sport made its debut at Tokyo 1964, and the occasion did not disappoint. Not to be outdone, beach volleyball took to Shiokaze Park for a Games which marked its seventh consecutive Olympic appearance and 25th anniversary as an Olympic sport.

Today, the FIVB is looking back at some of the top moments from the Olympic volleyball and beach volleyball competitions which saw history made across the board with the USA women’s and France men’s national volleyball teams claiming their first ever Olympic gold medals, and Norway, the ROC and Qatar winning their countries’ first-ever Olympic beach volleyball medals.

Volleyball

The US women’s national team made history in Tokyo with a convincing 3-0 win over two-time champions Brazil. In fact, the eventual Olympic champions only lost one match during the entire tournament.

Team USA now have medals across the colour spectrum in women’s Olympic volleyball, adding to their London 2012, Beijing 2008 and Los Angeles 1984 silver medals, and Rio 2016 and Barcelona 1992 bronze medals.

Tokyo 2020 also marked the last international competition for South Korean volleyball star Kim Yeon Koung who announced her retirement following the Games. Kim is widely regarded as the greatest South Korean volleyball player of all time and enjoyed a 16-year national team career. She helped lead the team to the semi-finals of Tokyo, including a tough five-set battle against the Dominican Republic to help secure a spot in the knockout stages. The team lost to Brazil 3-0 in the semi-finals before being overpowered 3-0 by World Champions Serbia in the bronze medal match.  

Meanwhile, in the men’s Olympic competition, history was also written as France bested the ROC 3-2 to seize their first volleyball Olympic gold medal. France will no doubt already be looking ahead to the Olympic Games Paris 2024 where the host team will have an opportunity to defend their title on home soil.

It was a disappointing end to an incredible Games for the ROC, although the team left it all out on the court in the final to claim silver. The ROC also went two steps further than in Rio 2016 where they narrowly missed out on a bronze medal.

Meanwhile, the Argentina men’s national team stunned Rio 2016 gold medallists Brazil in a thrilling five set match to claim bronze. It was Argentina’s second-ever Olympic medal, having previously earned bronze at Seoul 1988.

Beach volleyball

Meanwhile, the men’s beach volleyball competition saw three teams from three countries on the podium for the first time in history: Norway, the ROC and Qatar.

Beachvolley Vikings Anders Mol and Christian Sorum of Norway capitalised on their domination of men’s beach volleyball over the past two years with Olympic gold. The pair defeated the ROC’s Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovski 21-17, 21-18 to also become the sport’s youngest-ever Olympic champions.

Finally, Qatar’s Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan took bronze with a powerful display against Latvia's Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs to win 2-0 and claim the country’s first Olympic medal in the sport.

In the women’s competition, April Ross and Alix Klineman triumphed to make it double-gold for Team USA in both volleyball and beach volleyball.

The medal marked Team USA’s fourth Olympic gold since the sport made its debut at Atlanta 1996, with Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings having previously won gold medals at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012. However, it was a new duo on the block which claimed this year’s top spot for the USA – Alix Klineman and April Ross – with a 21-15, 21-16 victory over Australian’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy.

April Ross also became the first women’s beach volleyball player to win an Olympic gold, silver and bronze with three different partners, having won gold with Alix Klineman at Tokyo 2020, silver with Jennifer Kessy at London 2012, and bronze with Kerri Walsh Jennings at Rio 2016.

Meanwhile, Switzerland claimed its first-ever Olympic medal in women’s beach volleyball as Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich overcame Latvia’s Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka 21-19, 21-15 to claim bronze.

Olympic Games Paris 2024

With the postponement of Tokyo 2020 to 2021, volleyball and beach volleyball fans do not have long to wait before more Olympic medals are up for grabs. With just two and a half years to go, the road to Paris 2024 is well underway.