Being one of the most popular sports in the world, volleyball has a spirited and diverse set of talented players across the globe for both indoor and beach games. Indoor volleyball was introduced into the Olympics in 1964, with Beach volleyball added in 1996, quickly becoming one of the most exciting sports featured in the Olympic Games. Volleyball has seen some extraordinarily talented and skilful players over the years so if you’re a fan, or just curious, follow on for Olympic Volleyball: 5 of The Best Players of All Time!
1. Karch Kiraly
Kiraly is considered the Michael Jordan of volleyball, having dominated the volleyball courts for years, labelled as the finest volleyball player in the world for the last century by FIVB.
At age 6, Kiraly began playing volleyball, partnering with his father in beach volleyball competitions, and went on to join the U.S. Men’s National Team where he won multiple gold and silver medals. He won volleyball’s triple crown with gold medals at the 1984 Olympic Games (awarded the FIVB Sportsmanship Award), the 1985 World Cup (named the MVP), and the 1986 World Championship.
Kiraly has been fierce in competition, with intense, hard-driving skills that have helped propel him and his teams to their numerous wins. He now works as head coach of the US Women’s National Volleyball Team.
Key sporting achievements: Three Olympic gold medals (1984, 1986, 1998), 148 beach volleyball titles, $3 million+ in prize money.
2. Kerri Walsh Jennings
Jennings is the most awarded beach volleyball Olympian of all time after winning the bronze medal in 2016. She is a five-time Olympian and holds the record for most tournament victories at 135.
Key sporting achievements: 3 Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012), Olympic bronze (2016), 112 straight matches won, $2.6 million+ in prize money.
3. Misty May-Treanor
Along with Kerri Walsh Jennings, Misty is part of the most iconic duo in beach volleyball’s history winning three Olympic gold medals, three World Championship gold medals, and, at one point, winning 112 consecutive matches.
In 2001 May formed her beach volleyball partnership with Kerri Walsh where they ranked number five in the world before reaching number one in 2002.
For years, May-Treanor was a dominant player on the beaches of the US and around the world. Her performance has rewarded her with numerous awards including the FIVB Most Outstanding Player in 2005 and 2008.
Key sporting achievements: Three Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012), 112 straight matches won, 19 straight tournament victories.
4. Regla Torres
Torres was named the FIVB best female player of the 20th century in 2001 at only 26 years-old. Born 1975 in Cuba, Torres devoted most of her life to playing volleyball, training from the age of 8, and by 14 was participating in international matches with the Cuban Youth National Team.
Torres became the youngest Olympic gold-medal winner in volleyball history in 1992 at the age of 17 at the Barcelona Olympic Games. She is known for being a well-rounded player, exceptionally skilled in serving, receiving, spiking and blocking.
Key sporting achievements: Three Olympic gold medals (1992, 1996, 2000), two World Championship (1994, 1998), three FIVB World Cup titles (1989, 1991, 1995).
5. Lorenzo Bernardi
Bernardi, born in 1968, has been named the best male player of the 20th Century alongside Kiraly.
Despite never winning an Olympic gold medal, he was part of the Italian team in 1996, bringing home the silver medal and has also won two world championships among many other awards.
Starting in 1988, Bernardi has wowed the public with his versatility in three Olympic Games. His versatility has become a special trademark on his journey to become a multi-talented hitter, amazing passer and one the greatest performers of his time.
Key sporting achievements: Five World League titles (1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 2000), nine Italian Championships, two World Championships (1990, 1994).
Are you looking forward to watching the volleyball tournaments from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games? Who are your favourite volleyball players? Let us know in the comments below, and join in the conversation this summer on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram!