What If? 1984 Olympics Edition

If volleyball had a journalist or written tradition, one of the great debate topics would revolve around the 1984 Olympic Men’s Volleyball tournament.  The United States were the great emerging team, playing at home, with a group, the core of which would largely dominate world volleyball between 1986 and 1988.  The Soviet Union, had dominated world volleyball since 1977 with a great team of champions very close to their peak.  One great team just before its peak against one great team just after its peak.

The first ‘what if?’ is who would have won the 1984 Olympics if the Soviet Union had not boycotted.  The 1985 World Cup suggests that it would have been exceptionally close and hints, to me at least, that one year earlier with the Soviets closer to their peak and USA further from theirs, the Soviets would have been favourites.

The second ‘what if?’ is whether the system of specialisation developed by the US would have become so widespread, so fast if they had not won the gold medal. This ‘what if?’ is clearer.  I think specialisation would have become just as widespread, although maybe taken a little longer to become standard practice.

There is another hint at what the outcome might have been in a match played later in 1984 at the Japan Cup.  Highlights have just popped up on YouTube.  The match was won in five sets by the Soviet Union.  The ‘what ifs?’ remain.

To quote the comment in Russian on the video…

“This “Japanese Cup” in November 1984. It was conducted among male teams 8 countries – the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, the USA, South Korea, Poland, Mexico, Japan, China. The Soviet Union in the year boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in response to the boycott of the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980, so the US volleyball team took first place in the summer of 1984. And Japan Cup team of the USSR proved that in fact it is still the strongest in the world.”

To quote Doug Beal from his book, ‘Spike!‘…

“The USA goes to this tournament and answers the critics of the boycotting countries.  We crush Poland and Bulgaria, lost a tight match to the USSR, and along with the Soviets dominate the field.  (We are, of course, without half of our Olympic team***).”

What if?…

*** Timmons was injured and Dvorak doesn’t seem to play.  The Soviet Union on the other hand are missing Pantchenko and Antonov.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2


One thought on “What If? 1984 Olympics Edition

  1. Sidronio Henrique

    It was a friendly tournament. Just an example: after the 1984 Olympics Brazil also defeated USA, and they had Timmons and Dvorak. What does it mean? Nothing, the Americans were better than the Brazilian team back then – they had played the Olympic final. USSR wasn’t at the same level of USA, in my opinion, though the Soviets were clearly the second best team those days. If friendlies are taken into consideration, before the LA Olympics Americans played USSR four times in front of a Soviet crowd and won all matches, which according to some people let Platonov devastated.

    By the way, if Team USA won every major from 1985 to 1988, wouldn’t be more accurate to say they dominated the whole cycle? I know the Soviets lost 2-3 to USA at the 1985 World Cup, but a five-setter isn’t enough to say they were at the same level, when USA dismantled all the other opponents, while USSR struggled to beat 3-2 a Brazilian team with a lot of subs (losing sets by 15-4 and 15-5) and lost 1-3 to Czechoslovakia, quite a poor performance – after that defeat Platonov said if he could he’d leave the team immediately.



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