Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/9/2019 (587 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Canada’s men’s volleyball team is taking the long, hard road when it comes to qualifying for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Team Canada, ranked No. 6 in the world, is the highest-rated squad still looking for a berth in the 2020 men’s tournament after losing 3-1 to seventh-ranked Argentina in the final of a recent Olympic qualifier in China.
The hosts must now be among the top three qualifiers advancing from this week’s NORCECA Championship in Winnipeg and must then proceed to triumph at the NORCECA Final Four Olympic Qualification at a yet-to-be-determined site in January.
"It was very disappointing," Canadian head coach Glenn Hoag said of the loss to Argentina.
"I think the guys are still feeling it, but if we want to go to the Olympics, we have one more chance in January. And this competition is the qualifier for that. So we do need to focus on that right now and not dwell on what happened, but learn from it."
Brazil (Pool A), the U.S. (Pool B), Italy (Pool C), Poland (Pool D), Russia (Pool E), Argentina (Pool F) and host Japan have already locked up berths in the Olympic men’s tournament.
Five spots remain to be filled.
The Canadians caught an unexpected break on Monday when their Day 1 opponents from Suriname pulled out of the event for undisclosed reasons.
Canada takes on Mexico at 8 p.m. today at the University of Winnipeg’s Duckworth Centre.
With the No. 2-ranked Americans already earning a trip to Tokyo, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico are expected to move on from the Winnipeg qualifier. Cuba has already earned a spot.
Canada is bolstered by the presence of six members of the team that finished fifth at the Rio Olympics in 2016 — Gord Perrin, Steve Marshall, Nicholas Hoag, Blair Bann, Graham Vigrass and Daniel Jansen VanDoorn.
Meanwhile, both setters from the Rio squad — T.J. Sanders and Jay Blankenau — are recovering from back injuries and currently unavailable.
"No, it’s not easy, because there are only 12 teams in the Olympics and there’s a lot of good teams in the world that don’t make the Olympics," said Vigrass, 30.
"We need to get top three in this tournament and there are some good teams here, and then we have to win in January. That’s not easy. Lots of pressure."
OLY DREAMS: Former national team setter Dustin Schneider was an interested observer at Monday’s Team Canada workout.
The 34-year-old Brandon product was the starting setter on the national team and forced to miss the 2016 Olympics due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, suffered while playing for his pro team in Israel a mere 3½ months before Rio.
Schneider isn’t tormented by what might have been, however.
"Missing the Olympics was tough, but, not to sound holier than thou, the fact that we’d actually qualified for the Olympics after eight years of being on the team was just what it was all about," said Schneider, who works in Winnipeg as a financial adviser.
"There were lots of other guys that trained that eight years and were on the team and made the final 16 (roster) and didn’t actually get to play in the Games.
"It’s more than 12 guys to get there, that’s for sure."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Read full biography