London memories driving me on the road to Rio | Harrison's blog
Published 12 November 2015 (AEDT) | Author Harrison Peacock
1203 days ago I participated in one of the most amazing experiences of my life – walking out into the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics. The days leading into the Games and the weeks that followed were some of the most exciting of my life, and I hope to experience it all over again in Rio next year.
I have played volleyball for as long as I can remember. I played many other sports but it was always volleyball, either beach or indoor, that I enjoyed the most and was best at. My sister was the one who got me into it. I remember going to her training sessions as a kid and playing with a ball at the back of the court. Through her involvement with state teams and eventually national sides, I was exposed to a lot of volleyball and this is where I learned to love the game. I started playing in primary school and continued throughout my schooling to eventually be involved in the South Australian Sports Institute Squad, state teams and national youth and junior teams, both indoor and beach. At the end of my schooling it was time to choose either beach or indoor, to chase the dream of representing my country at the highest level. I chose indoor and moved to the AIS in Canberra to train with the National Junior Development Squad.
A few years later this led to my first professional contract in Linkoping, Sweden where I would play for 6 months before returning to Australia to trial for the national senior team. At this stage this team was a long way off in my eyes, as there were many more experienced players competing for the two spots in my position. In a very surprising but exciting time for me, I was selected into the senior team in 2010, and competed in my first season for the Australian side. These first experiences with the national team only helped to grow my passion for the sport, and my desire to go to an Olympic Games.
The 2011 international season was a very important one for us, as it included the first step in the qualification process for London. We had one chance to qualify, and that was in a tournament in May of 2012, but to get to that tournament we needed to finish top four in the Asian Championships in 2011. In what was a very difficult tournament for us because of illness and injury, we managed to scrape into fourth place, ensuring our spot in the qualification tournament the following year.
After another season in Sweden, the Olympic year finally came around, and it was time to throw everything at qualifying for London. We were a very young team both in age and in experience, so honestly not many people expected us to qualify. I guess this almost suited us – we liked to be the underdogs. After a grueling tournament it came down to one match vs. China. We win 3-0 or 3-1, and we secure our ticket to London. Any other result, and the Olympic dream is over. I still remember the feeling after winning the last point to take the match 3-0: the elation, the relief - it was something indescribable.
London was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. When people ask how it was, I honestly have no idea what to say. No words can describe the buzz in the city, the excitement in the air, the emotions felt in competing for your country on the world’s biggest sporting stage. I want to experience this feeling all over again, and that is where this new chapter begins – with the Road to Rio.
For me, it didn’t start quite as planned. In 2013 I discovered severe structural problems in my hips that had led to extensive damage in the joints on both sides. I needed to have major surgery to reshape and redesign my hips in order to walk again, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to play volleyball again. It was a testing time for me, but it was my experiences in London and the desire to experience that again that helped me get through the five separate operations and a year of rehab. I returned to the court a year later to compete for my country once again. The next year was full of ups and downs as I attempted to return after the operations, but I was back on the Road to Rio – the only place I wanted to be.
This brings me to now, where I am living In Bedzin, Poland on my first professional contract since the hip surgery. Almost all of the members of the Australian side are currently with a professional club in Europe, Asia or South America with this top level competition being an important part of the preparation process for Rio. Most of the professional seasons run until March/April, giving us about a month of preparation together before the big qualification tournament in May next year. Each and every player is counting down the days before that tournament in Japan in May, and we are doing everything we can to prepare to qualify for the biggest sporting event in any of our lives. This blog will tell my story and the story of my teammates as we attempt to win our place in the 2016 Olympics.