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Tokyo Rewind, Aug. 8: The end of the pandemic Games, final medal count

Three gold medals Sunday lifted the US past China for most gold medals and most overall. The Beijing winter Games start in 108 days.

On the final day of the Tokyo Games, the U.S. women's indoor volleyball team took home its first ever Olympic gold medal. 

The American women took down Brazil in straight sets, 25-21, 25-20, 25-14 Sunday morning, beating the team that had held them off the top step of the medal podium twice before.

With the win, U.S. Coach Karch Kiraly joins China’s Lang Ping as just the second person to win gold as a player in volleyball and then lead a country to gold as coach. Kiraly won gold indoor as a player in 1984 and ’88. He also won gold in beach volleyball in 1996.

Jordan Larson was one of several members of the team who struggled to hold back tears after the win.

“I’m just still in a state of shock,” Larson said. “I cried more in the last 24 hours than I think I have in my career. I’m not an emotional player, an emotional person. But I think just the emotions got the best of me. I’m now in kind of this euphoria, a state of shock.”

Kiraly also held back tears of joy in his post-match interview.

America wins gold medal count

The women's volleyball gold was one of three that the U.S. nabbed in the Games' final hours. Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and the U.S. women's basketball team took home their record seventh gold in a row, while Jennifer Valente won it all on the cycling track, taking gold in the women's omnium. 

Turns out Team USA needed every one of those wins to edge out China for most gold medals. The U.S. earned 39 gold medals, 113 overall, meaning America comes home with both the most gold medals and the most medals overall.

A scaled-back celebration

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach declared the games over during a tuned-down Closing Ceremony. Just like with the rest of the Games, fans were nowhere to be seen in Olympic Stadium, rather on the stadium's screens, in a scene that looked like an oversized video conference.

The theme of the closing ceremony was "Worlds We Share" and featured everything from stunt bikes to intricate light shows as it tried to convey a "celebratory and liberating atmosphere” for athletes after a tense two weeks.

The world will reconvene in France

The Closing Ceremony ended with an official transition to the next Summer Olympics - 2024 in Paris. The baton was passed, literally in the form of the Olympic flag. Bach took the flag from Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and handed it to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, officially closing the book on the Tokyo Games.

Credit: AP
International Olympic Committee's President Thomas Bach hands over the Olympic flag to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Meanwhile in Paris, fans gathered to celebrate the upcoming Games. The Closing Ceremony went live to excited groups of fans clustered near the Eiffel Tower, a crowded public scene that Tokyo didn't allow. 

Paris organizers promised Sunday to “take sport out of its traditional spaces” and “connect with new audiences in new ways” in 2024.

But first, it's Beijing

With the book closed on Tokyo, the countdown begins for the Winter Games in Beijing in just 180 days.

It's very likely Beijing will face many similar questions Tokyo faced ahead of these summer Games, with the delta variant of the coronavirus raising new concerns about the pandemic. It's unclear where the world will be in six months time, but the Olympics push forward.

The Beijing 2022 organizing committee tweeted Wednesday that most of the facilities for the Games are nearing completion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.