The senior India spikers are on a dream journey to Berlin. It's going to be hot out there for the team this June, as it will be battling with the best for the first time ever in the qualifiers for the London Olympics.
“It's a chance of a lifetime for the team. We have played the world qualifiers before, but not the Olympic qualification. So, we need to sweat that extra bit to make the grade. The national federation has also decided to extend its full support,” said Dronacharya G.E. Sridharan, its head coach.
“The draw is expected to be held next week. We may well end up in a very tough pool. But, I am confident the boys will rise to the occasion,” he said.
The preparation for the Olympic qualifiers will begin at the Dr. Sivanthi Aditanar Sports Centre of Excellence in Tiruchendur on April 19. Prior to that, 36 players will go through a selection trial from which the best 24 will be picked for the camp.
“After four weeks of planning and rigorous training, we will play the China Challenger in Shanghai from May 22 to 27. We will be up against China, Australia and Kazakhstan. So, it's going to be great exposure for the team ahead of the qualification tournament,” said the 58-year-old coach.
“I am sure the boys will do full justice. I have faith in them. They have been performing pretty well the past couple of years. They have beaten a far superior Japan in both the Asian Games and the Asian championship. So, the FIVB [International federation], after seeing the performances, has given India a chance to enter the qualification round as the sixth team from Asia and also as the best performer,” he said.
Iran, China, Australia, Korea and Japan are the other five teams that will play the qualification round. “We have beaten Australia, Korea and Japan before. It is just that we need to set our record straight against Iran and China,” he said.
Sridharan said the team also did well to finish fourth in the junior Worlds in Pune last year. “It beat both Russia and Serbia and a couple of other European teams. Four players from that team have graduated to the senior level. They have also learnt the art of tackling the Europeans, who are tall, but slow on court. But, we can boast of both height and speed.”
How about the grey areas? We need to strengthen our serves and block. If that comes clean, then the journey will be easy.”
After the Olympic qualifiers, the senior team will travel to Vietnam in September for the Asia Cup. The best eight teams from Asia will take part. For the record, India finished with bronze in the previous edition in Iran in 2010.
Keywords: London Olympics