COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. December 24, 2003 - The USA men's national Volleyball team will start the new year with its second chance to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Team USA, which narrowly missed qualifying in November by finishing fourth at the World Cup in Japan (the top three teams-Brazil, Italy and Serbia and Montenegro-all earned early tickets to Athens), has two more opportunities to reach Greece.
The men's first chance comes in January at the NORCECA Continental Olympic Qualifier in Caguas, Puerto Rico. The United States, which won the 2003 NORCECA Championship in September to qualify for the World Cup, will compete with Canada, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico from Jan. 4-10, 2004, with an Olympic bid going to the tournament champion.
"I know we will have a tough competition in Puerto Rico," said Team USA Head Coach Doug Beal. "We know the teams quite well. Canada is a good Volleyball team and Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico will also be quality opponents."
Following the conclusion of the World Cup on Nov. 30, the members of Team USA scattered all over the world. Athletes playing professionally overseas in Brazil, Greece, Italy, Japan and Russia rejoined their teams, while a number of players resumed training at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., after a two-week break.
The team will reunite in Puerto Rico on Saturday, Dec. 27, to begin intensive training for what figures to be the most important tournament of the year to date.
Once the team is in Puerto Rico, it hopes to duplicate its efforts of four years ago when it finished fourth in the 1999 World Cup and then qualified for the 2000 Olympics by winning the NORCECA Continental Olympic Qualifier in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
"We are looking forward to the opportunity to qualify (in Puerto Rico)," Beal said. "We want to go back and do what we did four years ago."
Should the USA men fail to qualify in Puerto Rico, it will be assigned by the FIVB to one of the three men's world Olympic qualifiers to be held in Japan, Spain and Portugal in May 2004. The United States would then need to win that world qualifier to advance to Athens.