Lausanne, Switzerland, May 30, 2014 - The two FIVB World Championships are the highlights of the year. In the run-up to the title showdowns for the men in Poland (August 30 to September 21) and for the women in Italy (September 23 to October 12), we take a look back at the stories to emerge from previous competitions. In the third part of the series, we review events at the 1956 FIVB World Championships in Paris, where Czechoslovakia won the title for the first time.
For the first time in its history, the Volleyball World Championships in 1956 were played indoors. The number of teams participating in the event also increased dramatically.
The plan to make the sport more successful and have it included in the Olympic Games paid off later. The competition took place in Paris, which is also where the FIVB was founded in 1947. There were 24 men's teams involved, against just 11 at the 1952 World Championship. The women's competition saw 17 teams enter, more than double the eight teams which participated four years earlier.
The men's championships saw first participations for Brazil, the US, China, and South Korea. They would later become successful volleyball nations, but this edition was once again dominated by Eastern European teams, who monopolised the first five places. The US finished sixth on their debut, ahead of hosts France, who were the best-placed nation from Western Europe. After a short preliminary round with either two or three teams per group, the winner was decided in a final round including ten teams, all of whom had to play against each other.
The large number of games alone was enough to make the title showdowns in Paris the most complex volleyball tournament ever to have been staged. The level of play was much higher than at the previous World Championships, as demonstrated by the fact that many of the matches lasted more than two hours. The highlights of the World Championship include Czechoslovakia’s 3-2 victory over Romania, who were 0-2 down before making a memorable comeback.
The win saw Czechoslovakia lay the foundations for their sensational championship victory, to which Romania lent a helping hand. Romania claimed a shock 3-1 victory against the defending champions, the Soviet Union, who had seemed to be unbeatable in the previous two World Championships. When Czechoslovakia were victorious over the Soviet Union themselves, beating them 3-2 with players such as the Broz brothers, Golian, Laznicka, Paulus, Tesar and the outstanding setter Musil, a new era could begin. With nine victories in the final round, Czechoslovakia won the title without suffering a single defeat. The Soviet Union had to come to terms with defeat and settling for a bronze medal behind Romania.
The Soviet Union women's team had not dropped a single set on the way to victory at the first ever Women’s World Championship in 1952. In 1956, however, they faltered once en route to defending their title. The team led by Aleksandra Chudina, who was also one of the most important players four years earlier, tottered when they beat Romania 3-2, who would go on to be runners-up, but they did not tumble.
The legendary Chudina was not only successful on the volleyball scene. She competed in the athletics competition at the 1952 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki, Finland, and won three medals: silvers in the javelin and long jump, and bronze in the high jump. On May 22, 1954 in Kiev she broke the women’s high jump world record with a jump of 1.73 m. The Soviet Union's victory in the FIVB Women’s World Championship in 1956 meant Chudina became a volleyball world champion for the second time.
The top five places in the Women's World Championship were also dominated by the Eastern European teams. They were followed by China in sixth, who were making their first major international appearance, and North Korea in seventh. The US finished behind the German Democratic Republic in ninth place. Hosts France ended the spectacular tournament twelfth.
Read more about previous editions of the FIVB Volleyball World Championships by clicking on the links below.
1952: Soviet Union win double gold in Moscow1949: Soviet Union win inaugural World Championships