Yugoslavia, playing giant-killers to the finish, destroyed newly installed world No. 1 Russia in straight sets Sunday to win the Olympic men’s volleyball gold medal for the first time. In a high-powered 68-minute final, the Yugoslavs won 25-22, 25-22, 25-20 and condemned the Russian men to the same fate as their women, who had to settle for a silver medal behind Cuba. Yugoslav coach Zoran Gajic admitted the reality of winning gold had not yet registered.
“I’m still not aware of how I’m feeling, but I know I feel happy,” Gajic said. “People have been fighting for the gold for the past 3,000 years in Olympics. I feel it was a very good goal for us.”
Like a shooting gallery, Yugoslavia picked off the holders of volleyball’s three major honors in successive matches.
The Yugoslavs eliminated defending Olympic champions the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, triple world champions Italy in the semi finals and World Cup leader Russia for gold. The 1996 bronze medalists succeeded on all fronts against the fancied Russians, with superior blocking, defending and attacking. Vladimir Grbic and hard serving Goran Vujevic showed why they are rated among the world’s premier hitters, demolishing Russian blocker Alexei Kazakov, the tournament’s tallest player at 2.17m.