Japan ended 32 years of hurt and frustration on Sunday by upsetting the United States to claim the bronze medal in a full-sets thriller at the women’s volleyball world championship in Tokyo.
Russia successfully defended its title with a close-fought 21-25, 25-17, 20-25, 25-14, 15-11 win over Brazil in the final.
Japan squandered a two-set lead to blow the chance of a place in the final against Russia in Saturday’s semis against Brazil, and the United States was on the receiving end of a backlash from the host nation as it twice came from behind to win 18-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 15-8.
The medal was Japan’s first since taking the silver at the 1978 world championship.
“This is the greatest feeling,” said Japan coach Masayoshi Manabe. “Finishing in the top three was the target we had set ourselves and the players tried ever so hard so I am grateful. I really believed in them.”
Saori Kimura, played a pivotal role and nailed 28 points, her score matched by Destinee Hooker for the Americans.
“I’m proud with the way our team competed. Both the U.S. and Japan did their best, and they were very good. As a result, we were defeated,” said U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon.
“It was a long tournament. We had the privilege of visiting various cities of Japan, and it was certainly different than playing in New York. That difference made it a bit difficult for us. Japan played a good match, so I want to congratulate them. We learned from this year, and hopefully we will come back stronger next year.”
Ekaterina Gamova led the Russians in the final with 35 points. Sheilla Castro had a team-high 26 for Brazil.
“(Ekaterina) was able to grab the chances she had throughout the match,” Russia coach Vladimir Kuzyutkin said. “Nobody played poorly on the team today. The whole team can be credited for the good result.”
Russia captured its seventh world title. Brazil, which was coming off a tough 22-25, 33-35, 25-22, 25-22, 15-11 win over Japan, has never won the world championship.
“I think Brazil played a very good match, but in the end, the difference was the counterattacks of Russia,” Brazil coach Jose Guimaraes said.
Russia also defeated Brazil in the final of the world championships in 2006 in Japan.
European champion Italy finished fifth after a 25-23, 25-20, 25-21 win over Turkey.