Gavin Schmitt is looking forward to his first Olympic Games
Toronto, Canada, June 9, 2016 – Gavin Schmitt is quickly having to become accustomed to greater recognition following Canada’s qualification for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
The 30-year-old opposite spiker helped Canada to their first Olympic Games since 1992 by helping his team finish fourth at the FIVB World Olympic Qualifier in Japan. Along with their participation in Group 2 of the FIVB Volleyball World League, it means that Canada’s players are becoming increasingly familiar faces on the Canadian sporting landscape.
“We've seen an increase in popularity, and the growth in the sport since we got back in World League and they started televising it and people are able to connect with athletes now on social media,” Schmitt told the CBA website.
“I remember coming through university and there was no way to connect with the national team athletes and know who was on the team and what they were doing, and I think all of these avenues have helped it grow.
“Then you put Olympics on top of that and it's going to amplify things tenfold because more people ... watch the Olympics, and will see Canada in it for the first time in 24 years.”
In Japan Canada beat China in their final match and then had to watch Poland defeat Australia to ensure their place at Rio 2016.
It was touch and go whether Schmitt would be part of the team in Tokyo as he had surgery on a stress fracture on his shin, but he recovered in time to join up with his teammates.
“We were too nervous to sit in the gym,” Schmitt said. “We found out we'd qualified when we heard other people screaming, because our [online] stream was behind.
“It was a very stressful time. We kind of assumed we would qualify back in January at our first-chance qualifier, and that didn't go so well. I thought I was going to have seven months to take care of this injury, but had to rush it, and I wasn't sure that I was going to make it back, but very fortunate that things turned out the way they did.”
Before then Canada will begin their World League participation against China in the Czech Republic on June 17. They will then face Egypt and the hosts on the opening weekend before they host Korea, China and Portugal in front of the home fans in Saskatoon on the second weekend.
For Schmitt it was his third Olympic qualifying campaign since his first cap in 2007. Canada’s best Olympic performance was when they finished fourth at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games
“It's something pretty rare for Canadian volleyball players and Canadian athletes, to get to go,” Schmitt said. “Hopefully we'll maybe start qualifying every four years now, but is that a reality? I'm not sure. So it's absolutely huge.
“To come and be here late in my career and be able to go, it's probably the biggest thing that'll ever happen in my career.”