Finland made their dream come true in front of their home crowd in Kuopio when the national Volleyball team won the European Olympic Prequalification Tournament on November 23, beating Slovenia in the final 3-1.
“This is a great feeling, it’s nice to go home as a winner," said Finnish coach Timo Hoivala. "This was a big tournament with some very important matches for us.
"In every match the team played better and better. On the final day we saw the best match of them all. I must thank my team, which patiently prepared well for every game.”
After losing the first set 23-25, Finland triumphed in the others 25-17, 25-21, 25-21. Opposite hitter Olli Aakula was the key player for Finland, attacking well while his serves were very dangerous. Team captain Tuomas Sammelvuo also played a good game. “This is one of the moments when you feel that all the work that you have done is rewarded. It's a great feeling,” Sammelvuo said.
Over 2000 spectators gave the Finnish team a standing ovation after the last set of this great tournament. In the semi-finals Finland beat the Ukraine and Slovenia defeated Hungary.
Finland has to play now the European Olympic Qualification Tournament in Leipzig (GER) from January 5-10, 2004. The winner of this tournament will get the European ticket to Athens 2004.