By Anthony Boadle
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - China's women's volleyball team overcame a surging Serbian side on Saturday in four sets to take their country's third Olympic gold medal in the sport.
Serbia was competing for the first time for an Olympic medal and had beaten China in the preliminary round, but the Asian powerhouse prevailed in the final by 19-25 25-17 25-22 25-23.
The United States won bronze earlier on Saturday after beating the Netherlands, a consolation for the world's top-ranked team in their pursuit of an elusive gold.
China, coached by former top player Lang Ping, last won the gold medal in Athens in 2004. They won their first gold in Los Angeles in 1984 when Ping was on the team.
Serbia won the opening set with powerful serves and spikes by top scorer Brankica Mihajlovic, but China took control of the match in the key third set.
Serbia beat off an 8-point run by China and went down to an unstoppable spike by top Chinese scorer Zhu Ting.
Serbia eliminated the favorites United States from the Rio Games in their semi-final match on Thursday in a five-set upset when the U.S. team lost their top scorer Foluke Akinradewo to a leg injury.
With their star middle blocker back on the court on Saturday, the Americans beat the Dutch women 25-23 25-27 25-22 25-19 in the bronze medal match.
Akinradewo said some therapy on her left leg put her back in competition for the bronze medal game, as she shed a tear over missing another opportunity to capture the gold.
"That's what we want, of course. No team comes here not wanting to win the gold," she told Reuters. "But this bronze is just as special for me because we were able to fight back from a disappointing loss. We were so close," she said.
The United States reached the finals in the two previous Olympics in London and Beijing, but were defeated by Brazil both times.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bill Rigby/Meredith Mazzilli/Sudipto Ganguly)