Russia's Maxim Mikhaylov spikes the ball Canada's Nicholas Hoag in a men's quarterfinal volleyball match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty
August 21, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Canada's players gathered on their knees at one end of the court over the Olympic rings, taking it in together for a final time. Their special Rio run was over, but Blair Cameron Bann was already turning his attention to four years from now.

The team's libero offered this to his dejected, overachieving teammates: ''What do we got to do for 2020?''

After their huddle, the players thanked their cheering fans at Maracanazinho arena and the supporters back home who embraced their strides in a sport that falls below other beloved ones there such as hockey or curling.

''I wish we could have put a little bit more out there for Canada and for the fans that came here to support us and for ourselves,'' Bann said. ''I'm sure in a few days we'll look back and be happy with our tournament. Just qualifying was really big for our country. To do well and win some games here against some top-ranked teams, hopefully it keeps us going in the right direction - and we don't stop here, we keep going, keep improving.''

Canada lost in straight sets to defending Olympic champion Russia in the quarterfinals Wednesday, a match that went far faster than anybody liked. Yet even in the immediate sting of defeat the Canadians realized just how far they had come to leave their mark in Brazil and beyond. They were the last one into the 12-team tournament, having qualified in a last-chance event in Tokyo just over two months ago.

Captain Frederic Winters shared a warm hug afterward with his mother, Maggie Pajak.

The finish is so bittersweet, and Canada's long flight home will certainly feature some reflection by the players and staff. They are thrilled that young kids are inquiring about national programs, so the interest is building by the day.

''We'll take some time and look back at where we got to, and I think we'll be pretty proud of what we've done. It's hard to look at that now though,'' setter Jay Blankenau said. ''It's a huge step for volleyball in Canada to keep improving and use this as kind of a benchmark of what we can accomplish and try to be better and stronger next time.''

As coach Glenn Hoag prepares to step aside after more than 10 years in charge and a winning culture in place, many players expressed their desire to stick with the national team and try again in Tokyo.

''We don't want to be happy with just this,'' John Gordon Perrin said. ''We are in this moment, we enjoyed it and it was such a good feeling to play in these games at this level. We want to give ourselves the reminder: We want to be at this level and we want to play at the highest level in the world, and we want to be in 2020. We want to consistently do it.''

You May Like