Germans Jonas Reckermann and Julius Brink won a thrilling final against Brazilian top seeds Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti on Thursday to become Europe’s first ever Olympic beach volleyball champions.
Emanuel was bidding to reclaim the title he won alongside Ricardo Santos at the Athens Games in 2004, but despite a second-set rally, the Brazilians fell 23-21, 16-21, 16-14 in an evenly balanced encounter.
“I cannot believe that we’ve really won the Olympic Games,” Reckermann said. “It’s unbelievable, amazing. I think it will take some days, or maybe weeks, or maybe months, to understand what happened here over the past two weeks.”
Bronze medalists at last year’s world championships in Rome, when Emanuel and Alison won gold, the German twosome succeed Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers of the US as Olympic champions.
In the four previous Olympic men’s finals, Spain’s Javier Bosma and Pablo Herrera, runners-up in 2004, had been the only team to break the Brazilian-American hegemony in the event.
In front of 15,000 raucous and appreciative fans inside the purpose-built, open-air arena at Horse Guards Parade in London, the teams matched each other stride for stride in a taut first set.
The Brazilians procured two set points, but squandered both of them and when Emanuel gifted Germany a set point by sending the ball long, Reckermann needed no second invitation to power home a set-winning smash.
Stung into action, the Brazilian pair upped their game in the second set, streaking into a healthy lead and producing a string of breathtaking shots as they leveled the match.
Reckermann and Brink nosed ahead in the deciding set, and although Brazil saved three match points, the Germans finally prevailed on their fourth match point to land a big blow for European beach volleyball.
“I’m happy with this final — it was a great battle,” said Emanuel, who now has a full set of Olympic medals, having won bronze with Ricardo in 2008. “For my country, it’s good to have one more medal. It’s a motivation for the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. We need good results to motivate the next generation.”
Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins earlier won Latvia’s first ever Olympic beach volleyball medal and their first medal of the London Games by fighting back to win the bronze playoff.
The Latvian duo came from a set and 8-3 down to sink Dutch pair Reinder Nummerdor and Rich Schuil 19-21, 21-19, 15-11.
“The result is unbelievable for Latvia,” Plavins said.