Volleyball: Team GB end Olympics without a win


Click to follow
The Independent Online

There were few dry eyes in the Great Britain men's volleyball camp tonight as they began to plot their journey home from the Olympics.

After a largely self-funded four year journey to London, there was always going to be a groundswell of feeling when it was over, regardless of how well they had done.

That today's 3-0 loss to Argentina ensured they wrapped up without winning a point, set or game merely added to the upset inside Harry Brokking's dressing room.

Captain Ben Pipes was the most inconsolable, breaking down in the press mixed zone having fronted the team for five years. Words of comfort from British Volleyball president Richard Caldicott did little to stem his tears.

"They are tired, five matches in a row, on their toes and emotionally they are flat," Brokking said of his battle-weary players.

"You can try to change them and push them but the whole team was a little flat. It's been heavy to play those matches and now they are really tired."

In truth, Britain have been punching above their weight ever since they formed an Olympic-focused programme six years ago.

With no heritage of the sport in Great Britain and, with no domestic league to speak of, the challenge was always tough.

Players took themselves away from families and jobs to play overseas on minimum-wage contracts in order to hone their skills, with London often the only thing keeping them on track.

Progress has been mixed, though, with the high of last-summer's test event success tempered by Games disappointment.

"There is nothing to say. They have been playing volleyball at a high level," Brokking added.

"My team was playing high-level teams and we are not used to it. But I'm sure that if the programme gets the chance to develop and get the money to compete more against these teams, they will learn how to do it.

"This is their first big tournament and a lot of emotional strength is going out of their body every time. A lot is happening around them, they were empty and I cannot blame them."

Brokking's contract runs out after the European Championship qualifiers against Portugal and Turkey next month, with the Dutch tactician having offset some of his wages in order to allow the games to be paid for.

Caldicott will then await good news for UK Sport over the next four-year cycle of funding. If money is not forthcoming, however, Brokking will not be coming back.

"If there's no money there's no programme," he said.

"My contract ends, we will do the European Championship qualifications but then, it is over. I have to wait, if the programme keeps going, they have to contact me. We would all like the programme to continue, it was a big challenge but the money was cut and we did everything with our hands tied."

One man Brokking will not be able to count on should he continue is veteran Jason Haldane. The 41-year-old is retiring and, considering the angry words he exchanged with his coach at the end, it seems to be a decision that pleases both parties.

Warmer goodbyes will be reserved for Chris Lamont, though.

The gently-spoken Scot, who met and spoke with the Queen last week, is preparing to call time on his international career.

He was also in tears as the end, and told Press Association Sport: "It's disappointing, everyone has been supportive of us and said how fantastic an inspiration we've been but for me, I wish I could believe them.

"I feel numb, like I've let myself and everyone down. I'm annoyed we never showed what we can do. We didn't want to leave with regrets, but we do.

"I'm numb, you don't realise it until later. Next week when I'm sitting in the house I will wish I could come back. I can't believe it's over after all that work. It's gone so quickly.

"I don't think I will be back. It's time for someone else to have a go."