Ankle injury won’t block Passier’s Rio quest

Published 5 November 2015 (AEDT)

Travis Passier attempts a spike for Australia. © Getty Images

Volleyball: Australian athletes push their bodies to the limit to pull on the green and gold and if they are a chance of making the Rio Olympic Games then they chase the opportunity.

So despite injuring ligaments in his ankle just a week before the Asian Volleyball Championships Travis Passier persevered to not only line up for Australia in Iran but also back-up in Japan to face the world’s best at the World Cup.

Now back in Australia, Passier has been playing in the domestic competition for the Canberra Heat before he undergoes surgery on his injured ankle.

“At the moment I am trying to re-strengthen everything because the international season was really gruelling in terms of games and travelling and I didn’t really have the chance do the weights to keep the body fit,” the 207 cm (6’9”) middle blocker said.

“I’ve got some ankle issues that it’s looking like I’ll have to get some surgery on, which will mean that I’m going to miss the finals for the Australian Volleyball League.

“If I get it in the coming week though I will aim to get an overseas contract for mid-January but that all depends if there are injuries overseas that will give me the opportunity.”

Having played in the world’s top leagues in Sweden, Denmark and Italy, returning home has given the 26-year-old the chance to see how the local talent is developing.

“Looking at the strength at the teams they’re getting a lot better than when I started with some really experienced players helping coach the younger guys.

“There is a lot of potential coming through and hopefully that can be translated to our youth and junior teams and then getting them on the national team for 2020 and beyond.”

While Passier’s immediate focus is on getting his ankle back to full strength, there is no doubting that the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are always on his mind.

“It would be a proud moment to represent Australia at the Olympics again.

“It was a big shock to get to London and I really wasn’t prepared so I had to take everything in.

“Now, if we qualify, we’d be going Brazil which you can class as the home of volleyball now and that would be just insane.

“I’m hoping I can pull on the green and gold again and give a little more in Rio.”

If Australia is to make it through to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games there is no doubting the unique atmosphere that will await them.

“We played there against the Brazilians in the World League this year and it was quite surprising how many people they can get in these little stadiums.

“The fans are very passionate and the players are almost like rock stars.”

Australia will need to finish in the top three, or be the top Asian side, at the World Qualification Tournament to be held in May to secure a spot at the Rio Games.

The tournament will feature eight teams with hosts Japan, Australia, Iran, Venezuela and China already confirmed.

Australia faced Iran, Venezuela and host nation Japan at the recent World Cup.

“We can easily match it with those teams.

“We beat Iran again in Japan which is the second time that I’ve been there and we’ve beaten them. 

“It’s looking pretty good and when it comes down to it we can back ourselves and get the wins.”

Having fielded a youthful team for the World Cup, Passier believes that a number of the young guns coming through the ranks will benefit greatly from their involvement. 

“Just getting that first daunting experience out of the way is extremely beneficial. 

“You get out there and look up and see all these players and the first couple of times you think ‘wow these are my idols’ but after you’ve done it a few times you know what you’ve got to do and you get the job done.”

With young talents like Sam Walker, Jacob Guymer, Max Staples Luke Perry all pushing to become first team regulars there will no doubt be a lot more competition for spots on the Rio team.

“It’s going to be an interesting competition at trials with it likely being our biggest squad to actually compete for positions.

“Normally we only have about 15 guys that are at the level that we need but we now we are easily looking at about 30 guys that are at the level that can help us to qualify.”

In London the Australian Team won two of their five pool matches and gave eventual bronze medallists Italy a real scare. Since 2012 the Australians have been on a steady rise up the world rankings and are well place for the exciting qualification build-up.

Matt Bartolo
olympics.com.au

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