And just like that, the biggest party at the Rio 2016 Olympics has come to an end.
Beach volleyball wrapped up in poetic fashion Thursday, with Brazilians Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt rallying for a rainy two-set victory over the youth of Italy’s Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai in front of a euphoric home crowd on Copacabana Beach.
Just a week ago, Alison Cerutti went down in a heap, and Rio held its collective breath with Brazil’s biggest beach volleyball star seemingly felled by a sprained ankle in his preliminary match against Italy’s other pairing of Alex Ranghieri and Adrian Ignacio Carambula Raurich.
Yet, after a short break, Cerutti, all 6-foot 8-inches, 243 pounds, and one good ankle of him, rallied Brazil over Italy and into the knockout stages. Brazil’s pendulum continued its swing through the round of 16, and blasted past the powerful American duo of Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in the quarterfinals. On Tuesday, Cerutti and partner Bruno Schmidt battled past the Netherlands in a 3-set match that had the home crowd in hysterics after a tight 16-14 final set.
Silver medalist Italy rode a surprising wave of swagger and creativity into the final, taking down two powerful Russian sides as well as their Italian counterparts en route to the pair’s first silver medal. Dutch duo Robert Meeuwsen and Alexander Brouwer recovered from semifinal heartbreak to earn the bronze.
The curtains closed on an all-time Olympic great this week, as Kerry Walsh-Jennings and partner April Ross were ousted in the beach volleyball semifinals by Brazilian duo Agatha and Barbara in straight sets Tuesday. Walsh-Jennings rallied from her first-ever Olympic beach volleyball defeat to secure a bronze medal Wednesday, beating Brazil’s other pairing of Larissa and Talita—and capping an impressive career with yet another addition to the trophy case.
But while headlines circled the American’s swansong, it was the German duo of Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst that quietly put together one of the most impressive beach volleyball performances in Olympic history. The pair beat Agatha and Barbara in straight sets Wednesday to take gold away from the hometown favorites, quieting a raucous and blue and green-heavy Copacabana Stadium. But the Brazilians weren’t the only victims of a German sweep, as Ludwig and Walkenhorst only dropped a single set the entire tournament, dominating the field from end to end.
Copacabana Stadium has been the ultimate good times parade for the last few weeks, hosting packed houses with in-house DJs and plenty of quality sand court performances. Of the 48 teams that started this run, a single men’s and women’s squads stand alone as gold medalists, and only one, the German women, did so without dropping a match. Congratulations to Brazil and Germany, and tchau, Olympic beach volleyball—we hardly knew ye.