For the first time since the sport's debut at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, a European country has won beach volleyball gold. Germany's Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann defeated Brazil to win.
It took a grueling three-set match, but Brink and Reckermann managed to knock off Brazilian legend Emanuel Rego and his partner Alison Cerutti at London's Horse Guards Parade on Thursday night, winning 23-21, 16-21, and 16-14.
Previously, only the United States and Brazil had won gold in the men's event. Rego was part of Brazil's gold medal team in 2000, and also won bronze in 2008. London was his fifth Olympics. The German duo of Axel Hager and Jörg Ahmann won bronze in 2000.
The veteran on the German side of the net was Brink, who didn't make it out of the group stage at his Olympic debut in Beijing.
It was Reckermann, though, who made the difference for the Germans. He played a tough match at the net, keeping Brazil's blocking specialist Cerutti from doing too much damage while having several key blocks of his own. Brazil didn't do themselves any favors with eight service errors and 15 unforced errors to concede points.
After the Germans eeked out the first-set win, Rego and Cerutti took over in the second. Cerutti was particularly motivated and his block was working well as Brazil handily forced Germany to a third set.
Germany had the advantage for nearly all of the third set, leading at one point 14-11. But the Brazilians rallied back from three match points and tied the score at 14. Germany held on, and a final long serve from Rego ended the match.
"That was a huge match with many highs and lows," Reckermann said.
"After we gave away the third match ball, my heart really sank," Brink said. "But the beach volleyball gods were on our side today."
Brink and Reckermann add the Olympic title to the World Championship they won together in their debut year in 2009 and consecutive European titles in 2011 and 2012. It is Germany's 10th gold medal at the London Olympics.
In the London bronze medal match, it was more good news for beach volleyball on the Continent before the match even started. Latvia's Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins defeated the Netherlands' duo Rich Schuil and Reinder Nummerdor 19-21, 21-19, 15-11.