For Team GB it was not the winning but the taking part
August 12, 2012 12:55 pm
One win from 10 games is clearly not a rich statistic in terms of results, but for Great Britain's volleyball teams, London 2012 was never about victories.
In existence for just five years, their mission was a simple one; introduce the public to a sport that, despite its virtual anonymity in the home countries, is said by some to be the world's most-played.
Early indications suggest they have ticked that box.
The British Volleyball Federation and Volleyball England have fielded an "abnormal amount" of phone calls expressing interest in the sport in the wake of the tournament, while on a more trivial level, players have seen their Twitter followers quadruple.
Such actions are a direct result of their on-court performances.
Despite both sides failing to get out of their groups and in the men's case even win a set, both emerged with great amounts of credit for their displays against top-level sides they, by the admission of men's vice-captain Andy Pink, "have no business to be playing".
Neither the 69th-ranked women or the 92nd-ranked men played a nation from outside of the top 25 so to even be able to compete for patches - as they both did - was a credible achievement.
"We came to try and make the public fall in love with volleyball and we think we have done that," said men's captain Ben Pipes.
"The amount of e-mails, texts and tweets we have had from first-time watchers has been brilliant. We need them to stick with us now."
That Pipes was in tears at the end of his side's campaign said a lot, though. Despite the impressive nature of some of their performances, they failed to make good of their private ambition to reach the last eight.
An opening loss to Bulgaria quickly gave them a reality check and, when their most-winnable game against Australia went by the wayside, it was clear they were not on course. They were under-par against Italy before ending on a relative high with spirited displays against Poland and Argentina.
Coach Harry Brokking, who is now out of contract but is willing to return if the BVF receive an increase in their funding from UK Sport, sees hope for the future too, with the likes of top-scoring Dami Bakare only 23 - the average age of the side.
Much like the men, the women have plenty to build on if they can afford it, having returned Britain's first-ever Games win.
Having pushed Russia hard in their opening game they created history with a five-set success over Algeria that did not wrap up until 12.37am.
"I am so proud of all the girls," said coach Audrey Cooper, who has kept her squad together despite them having to pay their own way to London after their funding was taken away.
"It's been a long and hard road, but they will never forget what they have achieved."
For a while the Algeria win put them on the brink of an unthinkable quarter-final spot, only for defeats to Italy, the Dominican Republic and Japan to snuff out any hopes.
Like the men, though, they have players who could star in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Captain Lynne Beattie was a stand-out and with Grace Carter and Ciara Michel also proving their worth against the elite, a bright future surely awaits - provided their programme remains in existence.
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