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A phase of the USSR-Poland match – from:volleyballworld.com

Article by John Manenti

1952 is a year”historic” for the Sport of the former Soviet Unionas it coincides with the first participation of the Eastern European Colossus in the Olympics by taking part in the Helsinki Games, to then give life for over 30 years to the transposition into sport of the “Cold War” between the two Superpowers USA and USSR, a rivalry from which unfortunately the never too unfortunate arise, respective boycotts of the editions of Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 ….

Unable to take part in the 1948 London Olympics having to mend the deep wounds deriving from the tragic events of the Second World War, the Soviet Union also delays the registration of its athletes for other major international eventsas in the case of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, in which they took part starting from the Rome 1954 edition, the same year in which the Soviets competed in the European Swimming Championships held in Turin, while only with regard to Athletics there is an advance with respect to the aforementioned date, as the USSR is already present at the Review which takes place in Oslo at the end of August 1946.

This as regards the Individual Disciplines, while at the level of Team Sports the situation is different – ​​with the exception of Football, which sees the USSR play the qualifiers for the Final Phases only for the 1958 edition of Sweden – in as regards Basketball, for example, the USSR has already been a protagonist since the 1947 European Championships held in Czechoslovakia, winning the first of its 14 Continental titlesalthough he is only waiting for the 1959 edition in Chile to take part in the World Championship …

The same goes for Volleyball, another Discipline in which the representatives of the “big mother” dominate the scene at least until the dissolution of the Soviet Empire and which, unlike basketball, goes hand in hand between the men’s and women’s sectors, with the Soviet sextet taking over – after being absent from the inaugural edition which takes place in 1948 in Italy – the men’s European title in 1950 after graduating World Champion the previous year in Czechoslovakiathanks to the decisive 3-1 victory over the hosts.

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In the women’s field, vice versa, Volleyball opens up to major international events initially only at the European level and, moreover, between the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the following decade, this Discipline sees the almost only high-level practitioners in the formations of Eastern Europe, proof of which is that the first three Continental Reviews – which take place annually in 1949, 1950 and 1951 – see only France in the top four, occupying this position in 1951 when it was the organizing countrywhile the title on all three occasions does not escape the “Red Army“, Moreover without ever knowing defeat, the first of which is recorded on June 19, 1955 in the fourth edition in Czechoslovakiain which the landladies pull off a feat to say the least “historic”, winning 3-2 thanks to 15-13 in the last, hard-fought set …

On the basis of what has just been reported, namely the three consecutive affirmations of the Soviet sextet in the same number of first editions of the Continental Review, it is, to say the least, obvious that both the USSR to be chosen by the FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) as the organizing nation of the first edition of the World Championshipswhich take place in Moscow from 17 to 29 August 1952 following the conclusion of the Helsinki Games, although Volleyball has to wait until the Tokyo 1964 edition before being included (both male and female…) in the relative Olympic programme.

Oh God, calling them World Championships is undoubtedly a stretch, given that 8 formations are participating, of which 7 are European (and only France of the western part…) and only “foreign” to be India which, moreover, plays the role of “mattress team“, given that lost all 7 matches played by 0-3, collecting a maximum of 30 points (partials of 15-7, 15-11, 15-12) in the match against the listed Czechoslovakia, vice versa playing the role of absolute appearance in the humiliating 3-0 against the landlords, making just 2 points …!! …

It will be from subsequent edition which takes place at the beginning of September 1956 in France that the World Championship becomes worthy of the nameenlarging the field of participants to 17 teams with the presence of Brazil, China, Israel, North Korea and the United Statesbut for the moment it is necessary to do “put a good face on” and, even if it is actually a European Championship, the winner will be able to claim the title of World Champion.

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To give greater prominence to the event – ​​or perhaps due to the lack, at the time, of suitable Palazzetti dello Sport – the meetings take place outdoors (also given the summer period …), inside the “Stadium Leninof the capital Muscovite and to give the official opening to the Review presided over by none other than the President of the Council, as well as Secretary General of the CPSU, Joseph Stalin, with it was up to the hosts to inaugurate the competition by facing Bulgaria in the afternoon of August 17, 1952 …

The formula of the Tournament follows the same as the European Championships, i.e. with the 8 formations to compete against each other in a Single Group (“Round robin”, according to the English meaning …), at the end of which the relative classification involves the awarding of medals and there is, therefore, the curiosity to see if the Soviet sextet – which, as mentioned, remained unconquered in the three editions of the Continental Review – will or will not be able to maintain this halo of “Invincible”.

Obviously, the most accredited to be able to hope to succeed in such a “titanic” feat they are Czechoslovakia and Poland, who exchanged places of honor at the 1949 and 1950 European Championshipswith the Poles also winning silver in 1951 when the Bohemians were absent, which is why the brave Bulgarians cannot be considered an insurmountable obstaclewhich in fact suffer the obvious, albeit net (15-10, 15-4, 15-6 the relative partials …) 3-0 conclusive …

With the program foreseeing the dispute of two or more games per day, the remember three favorites go hand in hand – with only Poland dropping a set by the way in the 3-1 inflicted on Bulgaria – until the calendar proposes direct clashes, with the first to take place on August 25 between Czechoslovakia and Poland (as always happens in these cases, the favored Soviet Union plays its decisive matches last …) and that resolves quite clearly (3-1, partial 15-5, 15-8, 10-15, 15-5) in favor of the European vice-Championswho thus place their candidacies such as “official challengers” of the Soviets, while the objective difficulties of the Czechoslovakian sextet are highlighted by difficulty with which he beats (3-2, partial 15-3, 5-15, 15-11, 13-15, 16-14) a Bulgaria who, moreover, is so far the one who has scored the most points against “the Invincible Armada”.

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The fact is that, driven by its audience, the sextet coached by Valentina Oskolkova, not only is it also with full points like the Polish one, but has not even conceded a single set to its opponents so farincluding the match against Czechoslovakia, literally “swept away” as it certifies the outcome of the relative (15-10, 15-5, 15-6) partials, which is why, when Soviet Union and Poland face each other divided by a netwhat awaits the challengers is definitely a sort of “Mission Impossible”, even if Sport often reserves surprises …

Not in this case, however, with the Soviets also deploying the multifaceted Aleksandra Chudina, who alternates Volleyball and Athletics and who returned from the Helsinki Games with two silver medals in the Long Jump and Javelin Throw and bronze in the High Jump (it is no coincidence that at the following European Championships in Bern he won the Gold in the Pentathlon …), and to leave no hope to their opponents, reserving them (partials of 15-9, 15-4, 15-8) the same treatment with which they had “asphalt” previous rivals …

Thus concludes the first edition of theWorld/European” of women’s volleyball, and for the Soviet battleship is none other than the first of 5 triumphs in the 10 participations in the World Championship – with even two second and a third place to his credit – also imposing himself in 1990 in China, the last Review in which he takes the field before the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, so as to conclude in the best possible way a cycle that lasted almost 40 years.

But that, as they say, is another story…

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