Biochemistry alum Karch Kiraly (’83) leads USA Women’s Olympic volleyball team to victory

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Kiraly Karch 2021

Olympic gold medalist and UCLA volleyball legend Karch Kiraly leads the USA Women’s Volleyball team to its first-ever Olympic gold medal.

The U.S. Women made history on Sunday, August 8, 2021, sweeping longtime rival Brazil for their first Olympic gold medal, 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-14) at Ariake Arena in Tokyo.

Charles Frederick “Karch” Kiraly began coaching the U.S. women’s national Olympic team in 2012 at the London Olympics. At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, the U.S. women lost in the semifinals but they took home a bronze medal. 

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Kiraly won Olympic gold medals in indoor volleyball in 1984 and 1988. At the 1996 Atlanta games (pictured right), he became the only player (man or woman) to win Olympic gold in both indoor and outdoor volleyball, earning a total of three gold medals.

While a biochemistry undergraduate student in the early 1980s, Kiraly led the Bruin volleyball team to a 124-5 record from 1979-82, including three NCAA titles and a runner-up finish. When UCLA won the 1981 NCAA Championship he was named Most Outstanding Player.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 1983, graduating cum laude with a 3.55 grade-point average. 

Kiraly was inducted into the Bruins’ Hall of Fame in 1992, and the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2009 he was inducted into the California Sports and College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America hall of fame.

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The 1988 gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic team featured four former UCLA greats (left to right): Doug Partie, Dave Saunders, Karch Kiraly and Ricci Luyties.

Learn more about UCLA’s Olympians by reading UCLA Newsroom‘s “The 23 highlights of UCLA’s Olympic glory”.

Kiraly was featured recently in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.  In 2016, the New York Times featured two articles about Kiraly – 6/18/16 and 8/5/16.

Photos courtesy of UCLA.