GB Volleyball given green light to GO GO GO to London 2012

The GB Indoor teams have been given confirmation that they will be participating in the London 2012 Olympic Games. This is a momentous day for the whole of British Volleyball and we hope is a big step to putting Volleyball ‘on the map’.

Over recent weeks the BVF and GB Women’s Head Coach Audrey Cooper have been in detailed conversations with the Olympic Qualifying Standards Panel (OQS), which among others includes Andy Hunt, BOA Chief Executive; the Chair of the BOA Athletes Commission, Sarah Winckless and the BOA’s Director of Sport Sir Clive Woodward.

The discussions have been focussed on the evaluation of the GBW against the BOA’s Olympic criteria (below right) as explained by Andy Hunt….

“Our objective is to be as inclusive as possible, as it is our aspiration to have the largest team in over a century representing Great Britain at home in London 2012. Equally however, we understand that the British public expects every athlete who competes for Team GB to be capable of delivering a credible performance during the Games. Significant public investment has been made in preparing British athletes for London 2012 and beyond, and it is entirely appropriate to expect our Olympic athletes will have the ability to be competitive in sports in which, historically, we have not been strong. It is also appropriate to expect that London 2012 will not be a singular moment in time, but rather a launching pad from which every National Governing Body can implement a long-term strategy to support the continued growth and development of their sport.

After the submission of a 50 page report and a thorough presentation the Panel have confirmed that GB Volleyball has met the criteria:

Andy Hunt, BOA Chief Executive

“We are delighted to see that British Volleyball has put in place a plan to ensure that the men’s and women’s indoor teams representing Team GB are capable of delivering a credible performance in London 2012, and will utilise the unique platform of a home Games to inspire the next generation of volleyball participants.”

See a video of the reaction to the decision including an interview with Richard Callicott (BVF President) and Andy Hunt here.

GB Women Reaction
For the players and staff of the GB women’s team this is fantastic news and will give them all a huge boost over the winter months. Head Coach Audrey Cooper, who’s birthday it was yesterday, outlines what this means for the team….

Head Coach Audrey Cooper

“The confirmation is fantastic news. Without question these last 3 months have been a roller coaster of emotions; uncertainty, anxiety and often frustration. However, that is now in the past and we can plough forward knowing that we have met the criteria and have been given our rightful host nation spot. It is a priviledge and honour to represent your country, and one which you should earn the right to do so, the GB women have earned that right with their commitment, dedication and phenomenal progress over the last 3 years. Without that it would have been impossible to show the BOA our progress and to convince them that we can compete with credibility.

Our goals remain unchanged, we are looking to compete with distinction in London 2012. I have absolutely no doubt we can achieve our goals, however we need to find funding to enable us to prepare the way we should for the greatest sporting event in the world. We have a lot of hard work ahead, harder than anything we have done to date….but for today, lets celebrate our success so far”.

GB Captain Lynne Beattie, currently playing professional club volleyball for Cedat 85 San Vito in Italy, was part of the official press conference on Tuesday that announced the news and she comments….

GB Captain Lynne Beattie

“It’s fantastic news to hear that we are going to compete for our country at London 2012 after all the uncertainty of the past few months. We have been dedicated to that dream for the past four years and giving up that dream was just unthinkable for all of us.

We are well aware that this is just the beginning of our next battle. Our focus now is to produce the best-possible performance in London, for the public, for the sport and for the legacy we would love to leave behind for the next generation.”

Lucy Wicks, GB Setter, currently playing in the Bundesliga, Germany, gives us her reaction…

Lucy Wicks in GB action

“Fantastic news. Even with the uncertainty of the past few months our team has never given up on the Olympic dream & yesterday made all the hard work & emotional turmoil worthwhile. We have a lot more work to do but we are definitely on track to achieve our goal of reaching the 1/4 finals in 2012 and giving future volleyballers something to aspire towards. A huge thanks to Audrey Cooper who has fought our corner relentlessly, constantly doing everything in her power to help us to continue to strive for our goals”.

As intimated above, it has been a challenging few months for the squad, receiving the news that they will no longer receive UK Sport funding being a devastating blow to the progress that has been made over the last 3 years. Despite the uncertainty of the future, 16 players uprooted from their Sheffield homes and are currently playing competitive volleyball based in some of Europe’s strongest leagues. Their commitment to the programme, effort and desire to have an impact on the future of British Women’s Volleyball has never been in doubt. Grace Carter sums it up…

Relief & excitement following announcement

The last few months have been tough,waiting for a decision that would not only effect my volleyball, but my life.  The funding decision was catastrophic for the team & the future of British Women’s Volleyball but we were not prepared to give up. I have been in France, focussing on becoming a better player & delivering on the commitments we made to each other.

It is a great relief to get a definite answer today, we know there are many challenges ahead but I’m so excitied that we can now move forward to realise our Olympic dreams.”

‘Legacy’ is a word that has become synonymous with London 2012 and it’s possibly overused, but the home Olympics is a massive opportunity for our sport and this decision will hopefully leave a real legacy for volleyball in our country. Without a doubt one of the aims of the GB women’s squad is to put British women’s volleyball on the map and to make the sport an exciting option for younger players.

Meg Viggars is currently at the Volleyball England Academy in Loughborough and has trained with the current GB squad on a number of occasions, having been identified as having the potential to progress to the top level.

Viggars...future Olympian?

“Its great news that the GB women’s team have a place at London 2012, because without them it would be awful for the both the country and the volleyball world. As a young player it gives me a target which will make me work harder both in training and at the gym. It will also give me a role model because I will want to be just like the GB players. It might encourage more younger people to play the sport, creating more competition hopefully resulting in GB becoming a better volleyball nation.”

This decision belongs to all volleyball people
Naturally the news is something special for the people directly involved with the teams, but without a doubt this is also a significant decision for everyone involved in British volleyball. It will put our sport in the spotlight, raise our profile and give us the opportunity to introduce our fantastic sport to more and more people.

Without the support of the volleyball community the GBW would not have been able to make the progress we have made, which was critical to the BOA decision…whether that support was through refereeing, line judging, organising the events, driving the bus or cheering in the crowd; THANKYOU.

What’s next?
With less than 600 days to go to the opening ceremony there is no time to lose. Players will continue to work and play hard with their club teams, getting valuable match experience against top opposition. The GB Womens team will then reform in May for a summer of training and competitive matches. Unfortunately, due to finances, it looks unikely that the team will be able to compete in the European League, a competition which has proved invaluable the past 2 summers. However, hard work will be put in to find the best competitive series for the team to progress. Without doubt, all players and staff involved in the programme will continue to give it 110% in their journey to realise their dream at the London 2012 Olympics.

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