A golden moment for coach, U.S. volleyball

around the rings

August 25, 2008|By From Sun News Services

BEIJING - As the U.S. men's indoor volleyball team joyously and raucously celebrated its unlikeliest of gold medals, its coach, Hugh McCutcheon, found a private corridor to collect his thoughts.

Yesterday afternoon, this bedrock of serenity and strength during unspeakable family tragedy finally experienced a moment that overwhelmed him.

McCutcheon's steady demeanor after his father-in-law was killed here on the first Saturday of the Games, on the eve of Team USA's opening match, had permeated his squad, which struggled to express proper awe and admiration for its leader after its 3-1 victory over Brazil.

The death of Todd Bachman, the father of McCutcheon's wife, Elisabeth, and serious stab wounds to her mother, Barbara Bachman, had rocked the volleyball world. Elisabeth McCutcheon, nicknamed "Wiz," is a former U.S. women's indoor Olympian.

The U.S. men's 20-25, 25-22, 25-21 and 25-23 victory over the world's top-ranked team created shock waves of a more comforting variety.

"Obviously, this isn't going to bring Wiz's dad back," outside hitter Scott Touzinsky said, his voice cracking. "But hopefully it can give their family a little strength to keep on with their lives and keep his memory alive."

The memory of Clayton Stanley spiking home match point will endure, particularly since it marked the U.S. men's first medal since winning bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It is also the first gold since the Americans earned back-to-back Olympic championships in 1984 and 1988.

That meant the first gold medal for four-time Olympian Lloy Ball, who returned to the national team in 2007 after a two-year hiatus. It meant the same for Tom Hoff, the three-time Olympian and team captain who probably will now bow out of USA Volleyball.

"This match is a culmination of the vision and dream Hugh gave to our team four years ago," Hoff said. "It seemed so very far away. But he talked about it with great conviction and impressed upon us the need to believe and then do the work to achieve it."

The victory also served to announce the arrival of the U.S. men as a legitimate volleyball power. They now are 5-3 against Brazil since 2004, including a straight-sets victory in Rio de Janeiro en route to the World League title in July.

"This team that a year ago no one would consider to be worthy of Olympic champions has proved everyone wrong," McCutcheon said.

Boxing: : The final day of boxing went this way. In light flyweight, Zou Shiming of China beat Serdamba Purevdorj of Mongolia when Purevdorj retired in the second round with a shoulder injury. In bantamweight, Badar-Uugan Enkhbat of Mongolia beat Yankiel Leon Alarcon, 16-5. In the lightweight final, Alexey Tishchenko of Russia beat Daouda Sow of France, 11-9. In welterweight, Bakhyt Sarsekbayev of Kazakhstan beat Carlos Banteaux Suarez of Cuba, 18-9.In light heavyweight, Zhang Xiaoping of China beat Kenny Egan of Ireland, 11-7. And Roberto Cammarelle of Italy won the super heavyweight gold when the referee stopped the fight in the fourth round when Zhang Zhilei of China suffered a severe head blow.

Rhythmic gymnastics: : Russia, as expected, won the gold in the competition with ball, ribbon and hoop. China finished second and Belarus third.

Handball: : The men's tournament finished with France beating Iceland, 28-23, for the gold. In the bronze-medal match, Spain beat Croatia, 35-29. Poland beat Russia, 29-28, for fifth place, and Denmark beat South Korea, 37-26, for seventh.

Track and field: : Kenya won its first marathon gold, with Samuel Kamau Wansiru beating Jaouad Gharib of Morocco by 44 seconds. The bronze went to Tsegay Kebede of Ethiopia. The highest finishing U.S. runner was Ryan Hall, who was 10th.

Water polo: : The U.S. played Hungary tough for more than a half, but its defense broke down in a 14-10 loss. Tony Azevedo scored four goals for the U.S. Serbia beat Montenegro, 6-4, for the bronze.

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