Okimura Blog: Bronze is Still Beautiful

By Lori Okimura | Sept. 10, 2017, 8:43 p.m. (ET)

It came down to the last match of the FIVB Women's World Grand Champions Cup to determine the fate of our U.S. Women's National Team. Not just our last match against Brazil, but the last match of the tournament between Japan and China. In this round-robin format, the win-loss record determined gold, silver and bronze. The USA's win over Japan in five sets on Saturday set up a mathematical tournament victory for China and guaranteed gold medal. Silver hung in the balance between the USA and Brazil, but not far behind in the equation was Japan with the potential to pull an upset for bronze. After a disappointing loss to Brazil, the USA's medal hope was entirely dependent on China beating Japan in the final match. China wins, USA gets bronze. They lose, we lose. No coach in the world will tell you that they are content putting their team's fate in the hands of another.

Watching Karch, Carli and Jordan at the post-match press conference was a sobering moment. I heard them talking about ending the 2017 season with unfulfilled expectations, disappointment and lessons learned for the future. I also heard them talk about making a commitment to use the next several months as the players return to their pro teams to work on things they want to do better when to come back together next summer. And there it was again, that fighting spirit. Although Jordan was disappointed, she remained every bit the professional in answering a reporter's question asking what the USA will do to defend its World Championship next year as Japan hosts the 2018 FIVB Women's World Championship. Her response was perfect in saying that when the times comes to prepare, she and the team will follow a process. Throughout this tournament, Jordan, Carli and the rest of the Olympians have set the tone with their leadership. They are humble and well-spoken, powerful and determined. Equally impressive are the veterans, those whose work in the 2016 Olympic Quad helped the USA achieve one of the most productive Quads with a World Championship, FIVB World Grand Prix Championship and Olympic bronze medal.

With a 3-1 win over Japan, China secured their place as FIVB Grand Champions Cup gold medalists, with Brazil taking silver and the USA bronze. Not to be overlooked is Team Japan, in rebuilding mode like many teams including the USA who are looking ahead to Tokyo 2020. China's golden girl Zhu Ting was named Most Valuable Player which came with a $25,000 bonus. Jordan earned a $10,000 bonus as Best Outside Hitter, and I am guessing that means she's paying for the sushi dinner tonight? Team captain Carli accepted the third place check for $100,000. It was nice to see the team standing atop the podium, a few of them for the first time. I'm sure it won't be the last.

FIVB Women's World Grand Champions Cup. Bronze medalists from the USA!

USA Team Captain Carli Lloyd accepts the $100,000 prize money check for third place.

USA's Jordan Larson named to the FIVB Women's World Grand Champions Cup Dream Team as best outside hitter

Tomorrow morning, the team and staff will spend one last day in Japan. Some will return to the USA, others are making their way to pro teams around the world. Their lives are exciting, and at the same time, exhausting. People have no idea what these women sacrifice to put in the hours of work involved in reaching the podium. Their offices are around the world. Their co-workers are some of the best athletes in pro sports. It's a long road they travel to be part of Team USA. And behind each of them is a team of friends and families helping them along the way. A team of staff including the USA coaches (Karch Kiraly, Marv Dunphy, Tama Miyashiro, Sander Cohen), technical staff (Jeffrey Hicks), sports medicine professionals (Dr. Andrew Gregory, Kara Kessans), and strength & conditioning coach (Jimmy Stitz) who made the trip to Japan and keep things running so smoothly. I'd like to take a moment to thank each of them for being such great ambassadors of USA Volleyball. Safe trip home and see you next summer!

Thank you to the support staff of Team USAV!

Dr. Andrew Gregory, USA Volleyball team doctor, played an important role in keeping Team USA healthy during the FIVB Grand Champions Cup in Japan.

Marv Dunphy, though retired from Pepperdine, assisted Karch at the tournament

Assistant coaches Marv Dunphy and Tama Miyashiro

Always learning, Karch seeks advice from his 1988 Olympic gold medal head coach, Marv Dunphy.

USA Volleyball technical coordinator, Jeffrey Hicks, works with both indoor & sitting national teams evaluating data used by coaches to scout opponents.

USA Volleyball athletic trainer, Kara Kessans, and Dr. Andrew Gregory are a vital part of the team behind the team.