Earlier in the tournament, the U.S. had managed to get it done without any verbal pyrotechnics. After beating Japan 3-0 and the Netherlands 3-1, the Americans found themselves down 0-2 against Argentina. As Kiraly's wife, Janna, watched nervously in the stands, a Soviet spectator handed her a friendship pin with the Soviet and American flags on it. Soon afterward the U.S. rallied to win the final three games, 15-4, 17-15, 15-7. "When we came back to win the match," said Janna, "everyone got real superstitious about it. All week. Karch kept asking, 'Got your pin on?' 'Got your pin on?" "
About the same time the Soviet Samaritan arrived on the scene, so did Stork, the team's regular setter. He had hurt his back before the Olympics and had missed the first two matches, but Dunphy decided to put him in midway through the Argentina match. Stork served for four straight points and was a major factor in the U.S. turnaround.
The Americans cruised through their remaining matches with France, Tunisia and Brazil and were so confident about the final against the Soviets that many of them packed on Saturday so they would have time to celebrate on Sunday. Earlier on Saturday, Janna Kiraly's pin disappeared. "We were out shopping and I lost it," she said. "Everyone was scrambling to find it." Which, to everyone's relief, they did.
The Soviets tested the U.S.'s resolve early when they took the first game. But Dunphy wasn't worried. He felt he had the Soviets right where he wanted them: With the 6'5" Timmons matched up against Jaroslav Antonov, the Soviet Union's 6'6" lefthanded hammer. Though Timmons wasn't able to close Antonov down, he kept him from setting the Soviets on fire. Meanwhile, the Americans were an emotional flambeau. In the second game, Kiraly, Mr. Intensity if not Mr. Congeniality, received his second yellow card of the afternoon for his animated protest of a call. "That definitely took me out of contention for Sportsman of the Tournament," he said.
The supercharged Americans throttled the Soviets in the second and third games. Then they fell behind 4-0 in the fourth, but called timeout and began to climb back. With the score 6-6, Kiraly rose in the air—he has a vertical leap of 41'�"—to block Antonov. As he went up. Kiraly spread his arms wide in what he called "a split-eagle block." Antonov slammed a lefthanded screamer that struck Kiraly's right hand, and the ball fell back over the net. Point U.S.A.
After a Soviet timeout, Timmons flew in from the back to hit another of his sizzling spikes and give the U.S. a two-point lead. It was over soon afterward.
Despite their decisive win, the victors remained respectful of the vanquished. "It's sad that in an hour or two, four years of work comes to that," Kiraly said. "They're a bunch of nice guys."
Soviet Union, you are the best team in the world.
No. United States, you are the best team in the world.