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Yugoslavia Wins Volleyball Gold

October 1, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Yugoslavia hit the ball harder and played tougher than any other volleyball team at the Olympics, and was rewarded with its first gold medal.

Bouncing back from a four-game defeat to the Russians to start the games, Yugoslavia was relentless Sunday, cruising to the 25-22, 25-22, 25-20 victory and winning some respect in a sport where it has been strong if not champion caliber.

Unlike Russia or the other top-level teams, Yugoslavia didn’t have a standout hitter to rely on for easy points. It just had five players who could punish the ball and worked well together.

Yugoslavia got to the championship by being mentally stronger than world champion Italy, pulling out close points. It did the same against Russia.

The Russians, behind sensational hitter Roman Yakovlev, led 21-20 in the first game and were tied at 22 in the second, but Yugoslavia pulled away both times.

The third game was no contest. Yugoslav blocker Vladimir Grbic stuffed Yakovlev to give his team a 16-12 lead. Grbic screamed, ran along the padded barrier and exhorted the crowd.

After it was over, Grbic stripped to his underwear and wrapped the Yugoslav flag around his waist.

The silver medal represents a resurgence by the Russians. After winning medals in its first six Olympics, including gold in 1964, ’66 and ’80, the team slumped to seventh in Barcelona and fourth in Atlanta.

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