A Brazilian child bawling in the crowd became the last image from an absolutely shocking upset at Maracanãzinho arena in the wee hours of Wednesday morning in Rio.
The powerhouse Brazilian women’s volleyball team was two points away from a loss when the young fan was first shown on the screen, but he was far from the only person in the arena to shed tears.
China shocked the volleyball world by upsetting the hosts in five sets (15-25, 25-23, 25-22, 22-25, 15-13) in the quarterfinals, punching a ticket to the semifinals and a guaranteed shot at a medal while the two-time reigning gold medal squad will be heading home early.
Brazil rolled through Pool A in the preliminary round, sweeping all five opponents to go a perfect 15-0 in sets.
China, meanwhile, struggled in prelim play, going 2-3 overall and 9-9 in sets – good for fourth place in Pool B.
But China entered the Olympics as the No. 3 team in the world and they showed their mettle Tuesday night, rebounding from an embarrassing 25-15 loss in the first set to take the next two sets from Brazil.
Brazil looked absolutely dominant in the first set and it seemed as if it was going to be another easy night.
China had other ideas and stuck with Brazil all second set before taking over and putting it away late with a Zhu Ting kill.
The third set looked like deja vu – a close contest before China went on a run late.
And just like that, Brazil was on its heels and worry started to creep across the faces of players, coaches and fans alike.
China nearly blew its shot late in the fourth set when a miscommunication led to a set that dropped untouched to the floor for a Brazil point as two Chinese players stood around it, unable to do anything but look.
That led to a brief respite for the Brazilians with a set victory, but less than 20 minutes later, they were overcome with tears.
Ting was a one-woman wrecking crew for China with 28 points on 26 spikes and a pair of blocks.
China will take on the Netherlands in the semifinals Thursday. The two teams met on the first day of prelims when the upstart Netherlands shocked China with a five-set upset.