Newspapers around the world—including the Seattle Times—ran an Olympic volleyball report that opened this way:
LONDON — Destinee Hooker threw her arms around teammate Courtney Thompson in celebration after the U.S. women's volleyball team defeated the Dominican Republic to advance to the semifinals at the London Olympics.
That paragraph, written by Associated Press sportswriter Anne M. Peterson, sounds dramatic enough. But it might be deceptive.
True enough, Hooker embraced Thompson right after the match ended. But that hug may have been as much for compassion as it was for celebration.
At the end of a long rally on what would be the final point of the match, Hooker and teammate Foluke Akinradewo jumped at the net in a joust with Dominican Republic hitter Prisilla Rivera. Rivera won the joust, but had redirected the ball toward the sidelines.
Alertly, Hooker quickly backed away, pulling her arms and legs out of the path of the ball. She didn’t see Thompson behind her, who was in position to dig a tip.
As Hooker twisted her torso, her left fist caught Thompson squarely on the bridge of her nose. Thompson fell hard to the ground as the ball bounced out of bounds. The referee called Rivera for a net violation, and it was point, set, match to USA.
Moments later, Hooker saw Thompson still prone on the court, her face between her hands. USA’s initial celebration was cut short as several of Thompson’s teammates came over to check her condition. Thompson was bleeding, but smiling.
Because she had blood on her hands after touching her face, Thompson could not join in the traditional post-match handshake with Dominican Republic. Sheepishly, she walked to the USA trainer, and endured what appeared to be some good-natured ribbing from assistant coach (and volleyball legend) Marv Dunphy.
In the end, Thompson was smiling. And, in AP sportswriter Peterson’s defense, she might have also later embraced Hooker. Perhaps impressed by Thompson’s grit both during and after the match, Hooker told Peterson
"Courtney's a quarterback. She went out there and took control of the game. She knows our rhythm and it was great to have her on the court."
Here's the final sequence, from NBC's Live Extra ...