Canadian Men’s Volleyball Ends Olympic Drought in Dramatic Fashion
Tokyo, Japan, June 5, 2016 – Canada’s men’s volleyball team will be at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. After a long, and sometimes heartbreaking, drought of 24 years, the team won the final berth at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Japan today.
But it wasn’t a day without drama: Canada knocked China out of the race for the final ticket after their victory in the fifth set (25-16, 20-25, 26-24, 25-20, 15-9) this afternoon, However, the Canadian team had to wait until Poland – already qualified and number one at the tournament – beat Australia in three sets following Canada’s match before knowing its fate.
In the China match, John Gordon Perrin and Gavin Schmitt hit beyond the 20-point mark as they delivered an inspiring performance to keep Canada’s hopes up. Perrin contributed 27 points, while Schmitt recorded 23 points. Yuan Zhi top scored for China, followed by Zhang Chen, who scored 14 points.
“We battled today, it was a lot of pressure. We’ve been in this situation before when we had a shot to get to Rio, and last time we were in that position we crumbled pretty hard,” said team captain Rudy Verhoeff, referring to the NORCECA qualifier in January in Edmonton when Canada lost to Cuba. “Today I’m happy with our resiliency. I’m proud of how we fought today.”
This morning, China, Canada and Australia all were still in contention after Poland, France and Iran already secured their ticket to the Games over the week-long round-robin tournament. With Canada going to five sets against China, it meant that Australia (with a very similar record to Canada up to today) had to lose to Poland.
“It was a very hard match, and like China we had to fight all tournament long and it was hard on the athletes. I’m very happy with the win, and the chance to go to Rio,” said Canada’s head coah Glenn Hoag, a 1984 Olympian.
Canada’s men’s team’s last appearance was 1992 and the team finished 10th. Earlier this year, the team failed to take the confederation spot after losing to Cuba, and coming second in the continental qualification tournament in front a shocked home crowed in Edmonton.
At that tournament, Canada was missing Gavin Schmitt, who has been an offensive force for Canada in crucial matches in the past. Schmitt was sidelined with injury and underwent major surgery in January.
“It’s been a long process, I have a whole lot to reflect on. Everyone here was committed to the cause and we were warriors,” Schmitt said today after the team witnessed Poland beat Australia. “It’s been a tough year for me – watching the qualifier in Edmonton by myself – through days of rehab when I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it to this tournament, to being able to get here, and help the guys in any way I could. Words can’t describe it….”
Canada now has to re-group for FIVB World League, but with the knowledge that this August they will represent Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games (team nomination date TBA).
The WOQT was a round robin tournament: eight teams were competing in 28 games, with each country playing seven matches in as many days. The top-ranked Asian team and the top three ranked teams, four (Poland, France, Iran and Canada) in total, qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
#1 TJ Sanders, London, ON
#2 Gordon Perrin, Creston, BC
#3 Dan Lewis, Oakville, ON
#4 Nicholas Hoag, Sherbrooke, QC|
#5 Rudy Verhoeff, Calgary, AB
#6 Justin Duff, Winnipeg, MB
#8 Adam Simac, Ottawa, ON
#10 Toon Van Lankvelt, Rivers, MB
#11 Daniel Jansen Van Doorn, Langley, BC
#12 Gavin Schmitt, Saskatoon, SK
#17 Graham Vigrass, Calgary, AB
#19 Blair Bann, Edmonton, AB
#21 Jay Blankenau, Sherwood Park, AB
#22 Steven Marshall, Abbotsford, BC
Staff in Japan:
Julien Boucher – Team Manager
Glenn Hoag – Head Coach
Larry McKay – Asst. Coach
Vincent Pichette – Asst. Coach
Murat Haktanir – Statistician
Mathieu Seguin – Therapist
Jean-Sebastien Hartell – Therapist
Hikaru Ohtani – Team liaison