Martin Reader - Beach Volleyball Olympian
It is 2012 and Josh and I are minutes from our first game in the London Olympics. We are in the stadium tunnel poised to burst onto centre court like a cannon ball. The stadium is blowing up with every fan stomping their feet, clapping and screaming; the air in my lungs is vibrating. We are playing Great Britain at home in the best venue at the games. The world is watching and the vibe is like nothing I have ever felt.
You can’t fully prepare for something like this. Yes, it comes down to training, hard work and peaking at the right time, but no amount of visualization and sweat can prepare you for centre court at the Olympics. The stadium seats 12,000 people. There are 13 HD cameras covering the court for the world to see, 24 dancers to entertain the crowd, and constant music and hype from the mic. They have set up the best serving of beach volleyball the sport could possibly offer. If there ever was a time to perform this would be it.
Back to the tunnel. The refs are introduced and begin their walk out. The curtain is pulled and for the first time I see what awaits us. I can only liken it to how a gladiator must have felt entering the coliseum. The air thick and charged in anticipation of the impending battle. Hot, sweaty, loud, crazy; the gladiator’s fate clearly laid out before him with no looking back. I turn to Josh and want to say something but I draw a blank; the power of the moment has left me speechless. In that instance it is as if I am about to be in an accident and my beach journey flashes before my eyes. I see myself as a 10-year-old boy on the court with Randy Stoklos introducing me to the game. I see my first tournament, my first Provincial medal, my first National medal. I see myself playing at the U21 Worlds, playing on the World Tour, winning two Continental Championships and ultimately the Olympic berth.
BOOM. My confidence swells and I realize I am supposed to be here. I have earned my way to this moment and this is my calling. In a moment I am able to own everything about my situation. From scared to confident. From nervous to poised. From uncertainty to total ownership. It was Josh and I who had given everything we had to earn the right to wear CAN on our jerseys and the hopes of our nation. I turn to Josh and simply say “We are supposed to be here Brother.” He nods. They call my name and I burst into the centre court spectacle, excited and totally prepared to own my destiny - I was meant to be here.
Fast forward to present and Canada is being represented by 4 world class teams in the 2016 Olympic Games, all of whom have competed tooth and nail to be there. Volleyball in Canada has never been better; we will be seriously challenging the podium in Rio. They are talented, confident and prepared after a breakout quadrennial leading up to the tournament on Copacabana next week. It is now up to our athletes to find their peak performances in the madness that is the Olympics.
They have earned the right to wear CAN on their jerseys - they are meant to be there.