On Wednesday morning in Tokyo, after Martins Plavins and Edgars Tocs stunned Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Alvaro Filho in the Olympic quarter-finals, Plavins, the 36-year-old Latvian defender, was asked how he closest to Norwegians Anders Mol and Christian Sorum in the semifinals Day.
“You know, like the Vikings,” said Plavins. “With two swords. They will give us both and we will beat them. “
Even the swords might not have made much difference.
Mol was playing at another level, and by another level we really mean that he has simply returned to the otherworldly level that he has been playing at for the past two years. Mol blocked 10 balls en route to a 21-15, 21-16 win over Latvia, pushing Norway into the gold medal match it deserves after dominating the FIVB tour for the past two years.
“I think Anders was just playing a normal match,” said Sorum with a laugh, although he laughed because the truth he was telling was absurd: Anders Mol is just so good. Ten blocks is surprisingly normal for the 24-year-old 6-foot-7. “He played really well today and I was really tired after the first set. I got really tired and told him, ‘Different, I’m getting really tired now’. And he said, ‘OK, I’ll step it up, I have more power.’
“And then he had a lot of block points and that was the key to our victory today. I was really happy to have Anders by my side. “
In an almost two-month period in which Mol had to adjust to the teams that delivered him the most balls, he showed his best offensive performance of these Olympics. He displaced 10 out of 15 points, while Sorum, always the most consistent of all presences, dropped 14 out of 22. It was a constancy that Latvia could not keep up with.
“They had a great rhythm,” said Tocs, who ended on a pair of blocks and put 17 of 32 on its side.
“If maybe they had missed a few more balls it would have been a bit tougher game and they (would) have started to think, but they didn’t think, they did what they did and they felt good and that was it it.”
It’s not quite that for the Latvians. They still have a chance at a bronze medal, for which they play against Qatar Cherif Samba and Ahmed Tijan, who lost a wild semi-final match against Russians Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy (21-19, 21-17).
In terms of audience numbers in beach volleyball, it didn’t matter who won the second semi-final: both teams would have expected an epic and fitting gold medal match against Norway. Qatar is the hottest team of the season and has reached six finals. Russia was one of the most dominant teams in the quad, the clear No. 2 of Norway’s No. 1. Krasilnikov and Stoyanovskiy won both the 2019 World Championships and the World Tour Final. Now, having won the semi-finals, they are guaranteed a medal, even though a gold would be a damn good trifecta.
“We are in the final of the Olympic Games and it has been our dream since we played beach volleyball as a team,” said Stoyanovskiy, who is 24 years old and is making his Olympic debut. “Our hard work has finally paid off, we are very happy.
“That is history for Russian beach volleyball. It’s the first ever medal (in beach volleyball) and it’s just history. “
The bronze medal match between Qatar and Latvia will take place on Saturday at 10 a.m. in Tokyo. The game for the gold medal follows at 11.30 a.m.
As Stoyanovskiy pointed out, there is still a lot of history to be written in these games. Both Norway and Russia are guaranteed their first Olympic medals, while Qatar can win their first with a win over Latvia.
“Nothing is lost,” said Samba. “We have another game ahead of us to get on the podium.”
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