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U.S. women successfully defend sitting volleyball Paralympic gold over rival China

2020 Tokyo Paralympics - Day 12

TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 05: Team United States pose after winning the Gold Medal after the Final Women’s Sitting Volleyball match on day 12 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall on September 05, 2021 in Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

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The United States started a Paralympic gold-medal streak in women’s sitting volleyball on the final day of the Tokyo Games, successfully defending its gold medal from Rio five years ago.

The Americans solidified themselves as the sport’s new powerhouse, taking down China in four sets at one of the last competitions in Tokyo.

Including wins from the indoor volleyball team and beach volleyball duo of April Ross and Alix Klineman, the U.S. has now achieved a Tokyo triple of all Olympic and Paralympic women’s volleyball gold medals, which has never before been done.

“Women can do anything they put their mind to, and USA Volleyball has the strongest women in the world,” Katie Holloway said on the NBCSN broadcast. “It is incredible to be in that place. We are so grateful to be among the most powerful women in the world in volleyball.”

Women’s sitting volleyball was added to the Paralympic Games in 2004. China had won the first three gold medals awarded – plus the 2010 and 2014 World titles – until the U.S. ended that streak in 2016, topping the three-time defending champion after settling for silver in both 2008 and 2012.

The U.S. faced its rival for the gold on Sunday morning and was led in scoring by three of its veterans – four-time Paralympians Heather Erickson (21 points) and Holloway (20) and three-time Paralympian Monique Matthews (19). The team included eight veterans who now have a combined 27 Paralympic Games between them, plus four newcomers.

Lora Webster – who has competed at all five Paralympics – contributed six points, playing while pregnant. Her fourth child is due in early 2022.

The U.S. was off to a stellar start in the final, closing the first set in just 18 minutes at 25-12.

China showed up in the second, which the U.S. still took 25-20, then really came back with a vengeance in the third to win 25-22. Xu Yixiao was China’s top scorer of the game with 20 points, including five in that set.

Xu added another seven in the fourth set, but the Americans were relentless and wrapped it 25-19 to secure the gold.

The U.S. went undefeated in 2019, winning 25 matches, and entered Tokyo as the favorite, but was upset early on, dropping its second game to China, 3-0.

In a must-win game against the Russian Paralympic Committee, which included 11 athletes from the 2018 World champion team, the U.S. bounced back to sweep 3-0 and eliminate the Russians from medal contention.

The U.S. then beat 2016 Paralympic bronze medalist Brazil, 3-0, in the semifinal. Brazil earned the bronze medal Sunday with a 3-1 win over Canada.

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