LONDON — The U.S. women's volleyball team slowly made its way to the locker room with sullen faces, having lost in the gold-medal match for the second straight Olympic Games.
Impeding the Americans on their walk of shame: Somersaulting Brazilians.
Oh, how it celebrated, the Brazil women's volleyball team. After the 3-1 victory at Earl's Court on Saturday, the Brazilians tumbled and danced and sang before returning to the locker room. In the waiting area for the three medal-winning teams, their celebratory songs and hand-claps were deafening. Back on the court, they never stopped dancing, including on the podium. As each player received her gold, she'd leap around, yell out or simply start dancing to the teammate next to her.
[Photos: U.S. Women's Volleyball team]
The U.S. players stood stone-faced for the ceremony.
Was it difficult to watch that kind of exuberance after losing to Brazil?
"I did tell them, 'Get your asses down from the podium' or whatever before you celebrate. It's just a respect kind of thing," said Logan Tom, a four-time Olympian for the U.S.
"A lot of them are my friends. They celebrated a little differently than I would say Americans do. So I let it slide," said Tom. "It's their culture. They can celebrate how they want to celebrate."
Danielle Scott-Arruda, the only five-time U.S. Olympic volleyball player, said the loss was hard to take. "It's somewhat of a small knife in the stomach, the heart. Because you want to win. But I respect them. I think they're great players and friends," she said.
[Photos: Brazil's Women's Volleyball team]
And the celebrations?
"If we had won, maybe we wouldn't have jumped around as much, but we would have celebrated. But you know, it's culture. So congratulations to them," said Scott-Arruda, who plays professionally in Brazil.
The way Brazil's players reacted to the win, of course, was understandable: They captured gold for the second straight Olympics; and for the second straight time against the U.S., which was the top-ranked team heading into the tournament.
Their fans were just as into it: Cheering loudly when Brazil would score and booing lustily when the U.S. was serving.
Did Logan Tom feel the jeering was as disrespectful as she felt the players' celebration was?
"It's Brazil. We know their fans can be … I'm gonna put my foot in my mouth in a second. Ya'll are killing me," she said with the laugh.
"I'm used to it. It's their way of culture. They have a different way of thinking when it comes to their crowds. I don't take it as an insult, even if it might seem like it. But it's not," said Tom.
"They're very hot-blooded. You know, South Americans, they like to dance, shake their booty. They are who they are. I am who I am."
While some U.S. players weren't down with Brazil's celebration, coach Hugh McCutcheon said there wasn't "any malice" and they weren't trying to "rub it in anyone's faces."
He said it's a sidebar to the main story: That the U.S. still hasn't captured Olympic gold in women's indoor volleyball since the sport's Olympic inception in 1964.
"Hey listen, it's their journey. If that's the way they choose to [celebrate], I've got no issue with that. Let'em run around, do whatever they want to do. It's not an issue for us," said McCutcheon, who coached the U.S. men's volleyball team to gold in 2008.
"What's an issue is that we came to this tournament, we tried to win it, we got to the final and we came up a little short."
As the players said: This is what Brazil does in celebrations, and this is what Brazilian fans do during matches around the world. It may not fit with the expected decorum of the Olympic Games, but Logan Tom said it best — "they are who they are."
Rio 2016 is going to be … interesting.
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