Captain Gordon Perrin is confident Canada will compete with the elite in Tokyo
Lausanne, Switzerland, February 26, 2020 – When Canada qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympics, it marked the end of a 24-year wait for the country to see its men’s volleyball national team back on the biggest stage of international sport.
The fifth-place finish the North Americans achieved at the Maracanazinho showed the world that the team were ready to stay among the elite, and that’s the mindset the Canadians will bring with them when they compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this summer.
With part of the roster that secured the historical qualification for Rio still available for selection, including outside hitter and team captain Gordon Perrin, the Canadians know that the stakes will be higher when they enter the Ariake Arena in five months.
“Qualifying for Rio was very important for our programme, it was a long process and has helped to grow the sport in Canada,” said Perrin, who was the third-best scorer of the Canadian team in Rio. “And of course there will be more ambition for results this time in Tokyo. We have a good balance of experienced and some young powerful players.”
Canada upset eventual silver medallists Italy in pool play at the Rio Olympics
The team’s results after Rio have been mixed, though, and it’s hard to predict if the Canadians are in a position to claim a semifinal appearance in Tokyo, as they did in Los Angeles in 1984, or even earn a medal.
The 2017 season certainly seems to indicate they have the ability as they secured their first medal at the FIVB World League with a sound victory over North American rivals USA in the bronze medal match in Brazil.
The last two seasons, however, have been filled with good, but not exceptional results. In 2018, the Canadians were seventh at the inaugural edition of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League and finished ninth at the World Championships in Italy and Bulgaria.
In 2019, the team were ninth at both the VNL and the World Cup in Japan, and missed a first opportunity to book tickets to Tokyo by finishing behind Argentina at the qualification tournament in China. Their participation at their second consecutive Olympics was confirmed at the NORCECA Olympic qualification event in January 2020.
Now they want to use the 2020 VNL to build additional chemistry following multiple injuries endured by players on the team.
“In 2017 we were playing very confidently together,” the captain reflected. “Following that Olympic year a lot of us were excited to prove we could achieve more. I feel the years following we’ve dealt with unfortunate injuries. Opposite Sharone Vernon-Evans and I missed most of 2018 and last year we lost our two setters to back injuries. It’s been tough to properly build momentum when important players are out, but injuries happen and they’re out of our control. I feel we have started building our team character again and will head into Tokyo prepared.”
Canada’s first opponents in Tokyo are already set as the team prepares to play in Pool A alongside Poland, Italy, Iran, Japan and Venezuela. The pool is expected to see intense competition for the four quarterfinal spots up for grabs as the Italians, Iranians, Japanese and Canadians are currently ranked between the seventh and tenth places in the world and are separated by just 33 points.
“I don’t think the ranking positions will have a significant impact in the matches, so we’ll be ready to battle every team so we can be in the best possible position to advance,” the captain explained. “Each match will be difficult in its own way, so we’ll respect our opponents and prepare well. If we take care of these things, I’m confident we’ll be in the quarterfinals.”