Volleyball guide - London 2012 Olympic Games



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Your complete guide to volleyball ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

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Converted: Behold the pace, power and non-stop excitement of London 2012’s most underrated event.  

Confused: Awesome, is this the one they play in bikinis on the beach? Oh, it isn’t.

Volleyball - The essential guide

© Getty Images

Street cred: One of the most popular sports in the world but its existence barely registers in the UK, where it was one of the last London 2012 events to sell out of tickets.

Who’s good? Brazil and the USA contested both finals at Beijing 2008, winning one each.

Glory-hunting potential: Great Britain has never won an Olympic volleyball medal and if that run is to end at London 2012, something spectacular would need to happen – like British citizenship being granted to Inspector Gadget.  

The basics: The aim is to hit the ball onto the floor of the opponent’s court. You’re allowed three touches to return the ball but no player can have two consecutive touches. Even though hands and arms are normally used, players can actually hit the ball with any part of the body.

Athlete to watch: The flamboyant Giba is volleyball’s biggest superstar and he hails from the city of Londrina, Brazil. A 2012 omen?

Almost useless fact: Volleyball was invented at a Massachusetts YMCA in 1895 for middle-aged men who required a less strenuous alternative to basketball.

As seen in: ‘The Iron Ladies’ (2000), a Thai comedy about a men’s volleyball team of gay and transgender players, is genuinely worth a watch. ‘Air Bud: Spikes Back’ (2006), about a dog with an amazing ability to play volleyball, maybe not so much.

Do say: ‘The Brazilian men are showing off their colossal spikes.’

Don't say: ‘Zinedine Zidane needs to teach this lot what a volley is.’

British Olympic hopeful - Andy Pink

What would your advice be to someone taking up your career?

It’s impossible to play professional volleyball in the UK so prepare yourself for a nomadic lifestyle, living out of one bag for eight or nine months of the year.

What's your favourite spot in London?

Stamford Bridge or the complete opposite of that – Somerset House.

Who is your Olympics crush?

It would be a bit of a man crush; Steve Redgrave, just for the endurance factor.

Several people start out in a sport, and then give up. What made you persist?

What’s the alternative? Sitting in a cubicle all day long typing away or travelling the world and playing volleyball? It was a no-brainer.

What will be unique about a London Olympics?

Volleyball has the highest number of participants of any sport in the world but in the UK it doesn't get a lot of publicity. London 2012 will give us the chance to let the public in on this pretty well-kept secret.

What’s the biggest misconception about your sport?

That it’s a backyard game to be played during a barbecue and you don’t need to be physically inclined to be any good. Guys at the highest level are seven foot tall, they jump higher than basketball players and they hit the ball harder than anybody.

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