With heavy hearts, the U.S. Men's Olympic Volleyball team decided to take the court Sunday, one day after the stabbing death in Beijing of a close relative of the head coach. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is in the Chinese capital and has the story.
The U.S. men had to go a full five sets to defeat Venezuela in their opening Pool A match, 3-2. They won the deciding set 15-10 (full score: 25-18, 25-18, 22-25, 21-25, 15-10).
On Saturday, their head coach, Hugh McCutcheon, left practice as soon as he heard about the stabbing attack against his wife's family at the ancient Drum Tower, a tourist attraction just north of the Forbidden City.
McCutcheon's father-in-law Todd Bachman was killed and Bachman's wife was hospitalized with serious injuries. Their daughter was not hurt, but their Chinese guide also suffered stab wounds.
Their attacker, a 47-year-old jobless, divorced man from eastern China, jumped from the Tower to his death after the assault. Officials said it appeared to be a random attack.
With coach McCutcheon leaving to be with family members, assistant coach Ron Larson took over on the sidelines for the Venezuela match.
"I think the best way we can honor them at this juncture is the only thing we can do, and that is to go out and compete everyday and play hard everyday and enjoy and love the game of volleyball," he said.
U.S. team player Lloy Ball says they miss their head coach but know they must play on.
"You know you can't live in fear or anger about what happened," said Ball. "All you can do is send your prayers and sympathies to the family and try to continue what Hugh would want us to do, and that's try to win a gold medal."
The American men are ranked third in the world behind volleyball powerhouse Brazil and Russia. Their next Olympic match is on Tuesday against Italy.