LONDON: Germans Jonas Reckermann and Julius Brink won a thrilling final against Brazilian top seeds Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti Thursday to become Europe’s first ever Olympic beach volleyball champions.
Emanuel was bidding to reclaim the title he won alongside Ricardo Santos in Athens in 2004, but despite a second-set rally, the Brazilians fell 23-21, 16-21, 16-14 in an enthralling and keenly balanced encounter.
Bronze medalists at last year’s World Championships in Rome, when Emanuel and Alison won gold, the German twosome succeed Americans Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers 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 London’s Horse Guards Parade, 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 seismic blow for European beach volleyball.
With Thursday’s final, beach volleyball leaves Horse Guards Parade, the parade ground that hosts Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday celebrations and backs onto Number 10 Downing Street, home of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins earlier won Latvia’s first ever Olympic beach volleyball medal and first medal of the London Games by fighting back from behind to win the bronze play-off.
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,” said Plavins.
“When we were down five points in the second set, I spoke to Janis and said that we just need to keep on trying for Latvia and see what happens.”