GB's Volleyball women go home with pride intact
6th September 2012
Britain’s women took Japan to the wire in their quest to win a set in the London 2012 Sitting Volleyball tournament but the Paralympic newcomers ended the tournament in eighth place after another 3-0 defeat at ExCeL this morning (Thursday).
Britain put the lively Japanese under pressure in a hard fought first set and almost clinched it after 25 minutes before Japan edged the verdict, 25-23.
The second set was close too, but Japan eventually won it 25-19 before running out winners of the classification match with a more comfortable third set victory, 25-13.
The result means Britain finish eighth on their Games debut, without having won a set from their five matches but with pride intact after another performance which justified their presence at London 2012.
" “I feel proud of what we've done in this competition. We are the first ever women's Sitting Volleyball team to be entered by GB so we've got to take all these experiences. It's been absolutely amazing. We've got to take them forward, learn from it and come out fighting again. "
Coach Steve Jones’ team was formed less than three years ago and won a host nation place at the Games. But they acquitted themselves well against the best sides on the world and almost took sets off group winners Ukraine and Brazil, as well as the Japanese.
Britain’s 40 year old captain Claire Harvey said the team has shown how far they have come in such a short space of time.
“This was always going to be a very tough tournament,” she said. “It was all about gaining experience in this sort of arena, which you don't get anywhere else, and to take our sport into Rio.
It was all about gaining experience in this sort of arena, which you don't get anywhere else, and to take our sport into RioClaire Harvey
“Volleyball England, the BPA and ParalympicsGB have been amazing in supporting us and getting us from a group of people who had never played volleyball before to where we are now in two and a half years.”
Japan had proved to be tough opponents when the two sides met in the group stage, having improved considerably since they failed to win a match in Beijing.
Yet, despite their 3-0 defeat in that meeting four days ago, GB went into the game with hopes of revenge and great support from the crowd, especially for Martine Wright, whose return from injury in the London bombings has been one of the stories of the Games.
Britain began in determined mood, matching the Japanese play for play in the opening stages. But some great blocking by Japan’s net players, combined with some deft spikes and shots into the spaces, left the Britons stretched and out-manoeuvred.
In the end Japan simply had a little too much experience.
“We are disappointed, obviously,” said Wright. “But people have to remember that Japan have been to Beijing already and have got one Paralympics over us.
“I feel proud of what we've done in this competition. We are the first ever women's Sitting Volleyball team to be entered by GB so we've got to take all these experiences. It's been absolutely amazing. We've got to take them forward, learn from it and come out fighting again.
It has been an emotional roller-coaster but the strongest emotion I have is pride. I feel so so proud of every woman in this team that we have done our absolute best on court.I feel proud to say that crowd out there is our crowd, it’s GB, and without them we wouldn't have been able to perform the way we have performed.”
For Harvey, who lives in Ashford in Kent, it’s now time to look forward to the next challenge.
“We are already looking ahead to Rio,” she said. We will have to qualify through Europe which is a very tough pool to play in and that is why it was so important to come here to gain the experience and play the competition we are going to have to face in Europe.
“It's time to regroup. We've got a lot of positives to take away but we've got a lot of hard work to do too.”
Londoner Wright added that she was happy her new-found fame had helped raise the profile of disability sport.
Everyone involved in this tournament has been great and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s been phenomenal.I feel a responsibility to talk about disability sport, I am passionate about it,” said Wright. “To be honest, I will talk about sport all day long. Everyone involved in this tournament has been great and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s been phenomenal.”
Now, though, Wright is keen to get back to her family and her home in Tring, Hertfordshire.
“I’m going to spoil them rotten,” she said. “We’re going on holiday in the UK and I’ll make my husband something nice to eat. His favourite is a roast dinner.”