Canadian men aim for medal
KAZAN, Russia (July 4 2013) – After heartbreak in 2011, three returning Canadian men’s volleyball players want nothing more than to stand on the podium at the 27th Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia.
Marc Howatson of Victoria (Trinity Western University), Jay Blankenau of Calgary (Calgary) and Chris Voth of Winnipeg (Manitoba) were part of the disappointing bronze medal loss to Brazil in Shenzhen, China two summers ago. The three, along with their nine teammates from the 2013 squad and returning head coach Larry McKay, are prepped to return with some hardware.
The Canucks got off to a good start in Kazan on Thursday with a 3-1 (19-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-22) exhibition victory over the Australians at the Olympiets Sports Complex.
“I have a lot of motivation after the loss in 2011,” said Howatson, the team captain and a 6-foot-7 left side. “We want a medal and that is our goal to come and get a medal. We have a good shot but we need to play well. There are a lot of good teams in this tournament. We need to play our game and play with our strengths. It’s a long tournament so we are going to need to use all of our depth. We are all going to have to contribute.”
Expectations for Canada are high following three straight top-six performances at the biennial tournament, including a silver medal in 2007 in Bangkok, Thailand, sixth place in 2009 in Belgrade, Serbia, and the fourth position in Shenzhen.
Having three athletes who have previously competed on the FISU stage gives Canada an extra advantage to help deal with the pressure and hype that comes along with the Games.
Blankenau, a 6-foot-4 setter, says his experiences from 2011 can help keep the team calm and focused on the matches instead of the numerous distractions of the busy athletes village and multisport event. More than 10,500 athletes are living in the Kazan Village, including a record 309 Canadian competitors.
“We have a lot of good players and this is a really good opportunity for us to finish well,” said Blankenau. “The team is really excited to start playing.”
Canada, who plays in Pool D in the preliminary round of the 23-team men’s tourney, opens on Saturday, July 6 against the United Arab Emirates. Mexico, Chile and the Czech Republic round out the group.
NOTE: In addition to silver in 2007, Canada also captured gold in 1983 in Edmonton, the only time the Universiade was staged on Canadian soil.
2013 UNIVERSIADE POOLS & SCHEDULE:
Pool A: Russia, South Korea, USA, Hong Kong, Estonia, Belarus
Pool B: Ukraine, Thailand, Japan, Oman, Algeria, Latvia
Pool C: Brazil, Switzerland, Australia, China, Poland, Macedonia
Pool D: CANADA, Czech Republic, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Chile
July 6: Canada vs. United Arab Emirates
July 7: Canada vs. Mexico
July 8: Canada vs. Chile
July 11: Canada vs. Czech Republic
July 13: Quarter-finals
July 14: Semifinals
July 16: Final