A Big Announcement

A couple days ago, the entry list for the FIVB World Championships in Rome, Italy were announced. We are on it. It's official, Christian and I will be attending the biggest tournament of the year as the only Canadian team on the male side. Only by the narrowest of margins did we make it ahead of fellow countrymen Josh Binstock and Rich Van Huizen, and even then only thanks to the promoter choosing us as a Wildcard. It's a shame only one of us could get the Wildcard, because both teams have shown they deserve to be there by qualifying for main draws, but at the same time I'm glad we were the team chosen. And we intend to make the most of it.

This will be Christian's second World Championships, and my first. Hopefully the first of many, but for now my focus is on Rome. If Ryan Marsden was our coach, I imagine our team name would be YQR (Your Quest is Rome), though I suppose YQL might be more fitting. Rome will be the biggest tourney of my career to date, and therefore biggest chance to prove myself. And Christian is probably kind of excited too. Not to mention Worlds could play a major factor in qualifying for the Olympics in 2012. Can you tell I'm excited?

Another milestone comes in a week and a half. My first Grand Slam event in Beijing, China. Another big tournament that, until this year, I have not had enough entry points to attend. Thanks again Christian. I'm honestly not a big fan of China, but we did pretty well last time we were there, so let's do it again, this time in Beijing. The venue will be exciting enough at least, the tournament is being held at the same venue where Beach Volleyball was played at the 2008 Olympic games.

To top it all off, I was able to take a brief trip home to Calgary. Whenever i'm there I always make sure to do some blocking work with my dad, just for a little refinement. And I always seem to block better for the few tournaments afterwards, which is great timing, since the next couple tournaments are the same ones previously mentioned in this blog. Plus being home is always so relaxing, takes away a lot of the stress that living out of a suitcase for months on end can bring. Just the break any athlete loves to take.

All in all, a good week.

Ben Jammin


One Tournament at a Time

Two weeks after our first successful qualifier tournament (QT), it's time to do it all over again. With a few plane rides and a short repose back in Toronto, we find ourselves back overseas. This time in Prague, Czech Republic, for the first male only event of the season. Hopefully without all those bikini's around distracting us, we might be able to do even better. We will need to eventually, so that we can skip the qualifiers and start our tournaments directly in the Main Draw (MD).

This event has a full 64 team quali. Which means no byes. No shortcuts. Every team present has to play a full 3 matches in order to join the top 24 ranked teams to complete the 32 team MD. And this is our life. Pretty soon the tournaments will happen week in, week out, and until we prove ourselves to be among that top 24, we'll have to get through the quali. Which is exactly what we intend to do.

A single loss is enough to send a team packing, but a single time though to the MD is extremely rewarding. And of course, as soon as the Main Draw starts, it's still anyone's game. Casey Jennings and Kevin Wong came out of the qualifier and finished first in the MD in the Nederlands last year. There really isn't much difference between the top 24 and the rest of the field, every team is beatable. Sure Phil and Todd haven't lost in a while, but they'll probably be shaking in their boots if we match up with them out of the qualifier.

First match is tomorrow at 1:15 pm. 7:15am in Toronto. 5:15am for Mom and Dad. We play Greece on Center Court, so hopefully we can give a strong performance to all those who watch on bwin.com or FIVBtv. I'm not sure which is the best for viewing, if either. Tournament schedule and results can be found HERE.


Baby Steps

One, Two, Barbeque.
That's what people say about a team that finishes 25th, or last, in the main draw, as we did this weekend. It's a pretty hard pill to swallow, especially considering we had opportunities in both matches to turn things in our favor. I'll probably be a little pissy about how i played and dwell on a missed block here, or a failed side out there. But we live and we learn.

I'm not saying we played poorly. If I look back on both losses today and both wins in the qualifier yesterday, we made far more good plays than bad. Those bad points in my mind are so few that they will fade away, and be replaced by the many positive plays that came out of these last couple days. And as the season rolls along, those mistakes will continue to be replaced not only in my head, but on the court as well. In Main Draw play, all it often takes is one extra break, good or bad, to make the difference between winning and losing. The teams that stay on top are the ones who have a tendency to make that break work in their favor.

On a positive note, we did actually play pretty well all weekend long, with the exception of one set, where we got picked apart by the Brazilian serving. We advanced through the qualifier easily, taking down a higher seeded Swiss team in the process. We were the only Canadian team to do so. We pushed Fuerbringer/Lucena (One of the top teams in the U.S. and one of the hottest teams on tour at the moment) right to the wire (11-11 in the third set, before missing a few opportunities at the end).

To top it off, after our worst performance of the tournament, I ran into Phil Dalhauser in the elevator of the Main Draw hotel. The first thing he said to me was: "Nice blocking out there, you got Thiago a bunch." Coming from unquestionably the most dominant blocker in world, I took it as a pretty big highlight. I think I managed to play it cool for the rest of the conversation though. That was as long as we've spoken since I've started playing on tour, so I guess you could say we're pretty much best buds now. It will be pretty embarrassing if he ever reads this.

All in all, there is a lot to be said of our first FIVB event ever as a duo. It may have had a rough ending but there is a lot to be taken from it, and used in future events. Even as I write my sour mood from our loss is being alleviated, you can probably all tell that the tone of this blog gets lighter as it goes. But in future, it will always be nicer to write about winning a few games than BBQing.

Ben Jammin