1984 Olympics – USA v Brazil – Part 1

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USA met Brazil twice during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Famously they met in the final. But the first match took place in pool play. The video at the bottom of this article is the first set of the match. If anyone has the other two sets, please let me know. I remember watching this live in the library at high school. I did not leave the room at the end of the lunch period and missed a lesson (the only one I ever missed). Teachers saw me there watching the match but for some reason it was never mentioned.


With the boycott by Eastern Bloc countries, USA and Brazil were favourites for the gold medal but drawn in the same pool. USA won all of their first three matches against Tunisia, Argentina and Korea and were already qualified for the semi finals. Brazil won against Argentina and Tunisia. According to Bernardo Rezende in his book ‘Transformando Suor em Ouro’ the day before the game against Korea “we wasted time and energy discussing relationship issues, instead of the game tactics. It was more than six hours of talking, of shocking vanities, of out of control egos.” They lost that match and needed to beat USA to reach the semi finals.


Brazil started with their starters. USA started without Craig Buck and Pat Powers who would play in the final. Doug Beal in his book ‘Spike!’, wrote that “we wanted to ease them into the Olympic atmosphere.” The TV commentator notes that Buck has an injured ankle and Sunderland is playing because he has “more ball control”, presumably against the Brazilian jump serve.


– After you get over the blocking of the serve and the absence of liberos, the ball handling rules are still jarring. At 4:45 and 29:18 are examples of perfectly good digs that stop play. How did we ever like volleyball in the first place.

– Karch Kiraly is quoted by the commentator, “We are confident we are going to win, but we always have to have a good game from Dusty Dvorak. The hitter can be off but the setter has to give them a good set.”

– The commentators mention several times that Brazilian setter William da Silva is considered the best all around player in the world, and that Brazil has the quickest offence in the world.

– They also say spikes travel at 110mph. They don’t. With now know that spikes travel slower than serves, up to 100kmh. Not the same.

– About Doug Beal “…combining mid western conservative outlook with free spirited men from southern California. The players say ‘we don’t agree’. Doug Beal replies “I don’t care if they agree as long as they play the way I want them to play.”

– Ferninando D’Avila from Brazil played in the International Volleyball Association whose players were considered professional and banned from amateur / Olympic competition. He was reinstated and played in time for the 1982 World Championships.


Some observations of the match

– On the first ball of the match, Brazilians Montanaro spikes in the opposite direction of the scouting report. Karch Kiraly in ‘The Sand Man’, notes that he thought “”Wait a minute. Eleven out of twelve times this guy hits it this way. Now what’s this?” I think we were overly concerned with what they were doing rather than playing our own game.”

– Blockers positions are not fixed. The USA especially had middles matching up against different attackers.

– Transition offence is restricted by poor first contact and general conservatism. Relatively easy balls end up metres from the setter’s position, and even at the 3m line, setters mostly set high balls in transition.

– With Salmons and Sunderland playing Brazil dominate the start of the match and are leading 8-3 when Buck comes in, and 11-3 when Powers come in. Those players, especially Powers, change the entire tenor of the which ends much closer and harder fought.

– Towards the end of the set the Brazilian jump servers get on a roll, which makes the difference. In ‘Spike!’, Beal notes that they deliberately did not try to block the jump serves. They do however score two blocks on float serves.

– Karch hits a lot of combinations from the right side of the court after receiving on the left, which I hadn’t seen him do much. In other matches (here, here and here) I have seen he almost exclusively hits from the left side. Presumably he is doing this to make up for the absence of Timmons and Powers and their attack in position 1. Perhaps it is also why he has such an awful match in attack. He himself describes it as “…the worst match of my entire career. The only time I’ve ever gotten benched”.

– Players fall over a lot, for reasons that are not clear to me.

As always, the Data Volley match report for the first set of the match, 1984 OG USA BRA

And the full first set video, plus part of the second.

Part 2 is here.

Click for more Matches From History.

Tagged Doug Beal, Karch Kiraly, Olympic Volleyball, USA Volleyball, 1984 Olympic Volleyball


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