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Aug. 8 Report: Women’s volleyball team strikes gold to cap decorated Olympics for Team USA

By Jack Johnson, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication | Aug. 08, 2021, 10:37 a.m. (ET)

The U.S. women's volleyball team celebrates winning gold after defeating Brazil at the 2020 Olympic Games. 

It was finally their time. 

Members of the U.S. women’s volleyball team conquered Brazil 3-0 to capture their first gold medal in Olympic history. The victory was especially satisfying since it came against a country that had denied the U.S. gold in the two previous Olympics. 

Andrea Drews (Purdue, volleyball) led the team with 15 points, and Foluke Akinradewo (Stanford, volleyball) frustrated Brazilian players with 11 blocks. 

Their effort reflected a strong performance by collegiate athletes in the Olympics. There were 210 Team USA medalists who competed in college and they won 243 medals during the Games. They made up 82% of all U.S. athletes who earned medals.

“It’s a special time to be a female athlete in the United States,” Drews said. “I am grateful for the U.S., that we have the support system, and we have examples of women doing well while having children, having thriving careers while being successful athletes. So I am excited for the US, and excited to see where this goes during my lifetime in sports.”

The majority of the medals by Team USA collegians were won in swimming, track and field and team sports. 

Three of the top four schools that contributed medal winners were from the Pac-12. Stanford, with the help of Katie Ledecky (Stanford, swimming), posted 24 medals. UCLA added 15 (and tied with Florida), and USC had 12. Indiana rounded out the top 5 with 10.

“We’ve been chasing history a long time,” setter Jordyn Poulter (Illinois, volleyball) said. “One of the bravest things you can do is state a lofty goal knowing people will hold you to that standard. We came here determined to do the hardest thing.”

While a gold medal in women’s volleyball was a novelty, a gold medal victory for U.S. women’s basketball has become customary. 

The team won its seventh gold medal in a row and the fifth in a row for college teammates and women’s basketball legends Diana Taurasi (Connecticut, basketball) and Sue Bird (Connecticut, basketball) in a 90-75 victory over Japan. Brittney Griner (Baylor, basketball) led the team with 30 points. 

After the game, Bird reflected on her career spent playing alongside and against Taurasi. She announced after the game this would be her last Olympics.

"On the court, we always vibed. From day one,” Bird said. “I think we just complement each other really well. Our personalities are such where there's a complement. Our games are such where there's a complement and then through the years that just grew and continued to grow.”

Looking back 

-For the seventh consecutive Summer Olympics, Team USA topped the medal chart with 113, the only country to eclipse triple digits in medals won. 

-Caeleb Dressel (Florida, swimming) won the most gold medals of any athlete at the Games with five. He joined Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi as the only other male swimmers to win five gold medals in a single Olympics. 

-Ledecky won the 800-meter freestyle for the third Olympics in a row. Her seventh gold medal placed her one behind Jenny Thompson for the most all-time by a female swimmer. 

-Ryan Crouser (Texas, track and field) set the Olympic record in the men’s shot put three times en route to a gold medal repeat from 2016. 

-Xander Schauffele (San Diego State, golf) became the first U.S. golfer to claim the gold medal in 121 years. 

-Sarah Robles (Alabama, track and field) finished with a bronze medal in the women’s +87kg weightlifting competition, the first time a U.S. woman has won two medals in weightlifting. 

Quote of the day

“Everyone has overcome so much and we have been so inspired by all of these dominant performances across the board. Tokyo has been an amazing host and I’m grateful to have participated. There are so many young girls and boys looking up to Olympic athletes, it's a very neat cycle to be a part of, and very humbling”. - 11-time track & field medalist Allyson Felix on her Olympic experience. 

Jack Johnson, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Jack Johnson is a journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a collaboration between the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.