BEIJING – The U.S. men's volleyball team won the Olympic gold medal Sunday, defeating defending champion Brazil to complete a perfect run through a tournament shadowed by a grisly attack at a Beijing tourist site.
The Americans captured their third gold medal in the sport with a 20-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-23 victory in the final. Top-ranked Brazil, a two-time gold medalist, settled for the silver medal.
The U.S. surge to the title came after coach Hugh McCutcheon's father-in-law was fatally stabbed the day before competition started. McCutcheon missed the team's first three games to be with his wife, a former volleyball Olympian whose mother was also injured in the attack.
McCutcheon hugged his assistants after the final point. Then he buried his head into his hands and quietly walked off the court. He did not return for a long while, and when he did, he embraced veteran Lloy Ball.
Russia won the bronze medal earlier in the day with a three-set victory over Italy.
The Americans won golds in 1984 and 1988 before winning the bronze in Barcelona. They finished fourth in Athens in 2004.
A day earlier, in another U.S.-Brazil volleyball showdown, the U.S. women came away with a silver medal after losing 3-1 to Brazil.
This was the first time since the 1984 Los Angeles Games that both the American men and women advanced to the Olympic finals.
The men's victory was secured when Clayton Stanley's spike sailed toward Brazilian star Giba, who popped the ball out of bounds. Giba stayed crouched on the floor in disbelief, and the U.S. team rushed on the court to embrace. Ball, a four-time Olympian, jumped the barrier to the seats, where he hugged his 7-year-old son and wife.
Brazil has dominated international play for most of this decade and was favored to win the gold in Beijing. After winning all five matches in the preliminary round, the U.S. men beat Serbia in the quarterfinals before the victory over Russia.
The tournament opened on a grim note. McCutcheon's father-in-law, Todd Bachman, was killed the day after opening ceremony by a knife-wielding assailant at the 13th-century Drum Tower. Bachman's wife, Barbara, was badly wounded; the assailant jumped to his death from the tower.
McCutcheon is married to the Bachman's daughter, former Olympian Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman McCutcheon, who played for the U.S. women in Athens.
The coach left the team to be with his family and missed three matches before his mother-in-law improved and returned to the U.S. by air ambulance. Assistant Ron Larsen was interim head coach.
The U.S. men marked their shoes with the initials of Todd and Barbara Bachman during the games. McCutcheon planned to return to the U.S. immediately after the final.
The Brazilians went 4-1 in preliminary pool play, the lone loss to Russia, and defeated China in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Brazil defeated Italy and the U.S. downed Russia.