Teams from Volleyball Canada have been on a roll, and not just on the beach as evidenced by its men’s squad, unveiled on Friday for its return to the Olympic Games.
Despite having stumbled on way to qualifying and eventually taking the longer, harder road to Rio 2016, Canada will have a men’s volleyball team at the Olympic Games for the first time since Barcelona 1992.
It happened because the team excelled under desperate circumstances in the last chance tournament in Tokyo. Now – in a truly competitive global sport in which Canada often flirts with elite status – they’re one of the only 12 teams that will take part in the very exclusive Olympic volleyball tournament that will be contested at the Maracanazinho.
Since qualifying for Rio, the men have gained tremendous momentum, winning FIVB World League Group 2, which promotes them to the top tier of international volleyball for next season.
Led by captain Fred Winters and usual top scorer Gavin Schmitt, some of the teams Canada could face next season in World League will be close by in Brazil, as the maple leaf nation has drawn a severely tough group in Rio.
Canada opens its Olympic tournament against reigning FIVB World Cup champion United States on August 7 and the volleyball-mad host nation Brazil two days later. Other teams in the group are Italy, France and Mexico.
Top four teams from the group will advance to the knockout rounds.
There are nine more players in Canada’s full Olympic volleyball roster after Winters, Schmitt and Hoag, they are Blair Bann, Jay Blankenau, Justin Duff, Daniel Jansen VanDoorn, Steve Marshall, Gord Perrin, TJ Sanders, Rudy Verhoeff and Graham Vigrass.