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AUS/AUSTRALIA

The representatives from Oceania were the surprise at the pre-Olympic Tournament held in Tokyo in the last week of May. They finished second, celebrating their qualification for the Athens Olympic Games – as the Asian Continental qualifier – second only to the French (who also clinched a ticket to Athens) leaving behind the other contenders from Asia (China, Japan, Korea and Iran). Australia overcame China 3-0 in the decisive match.

The counterattack of the ‘Roos’ began in the beginning of the decade with an eighth placing at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. The hiring of veteran Argentine Volleyball ace (1988 Olympic bronze medalist) Jon Uriarte followed in June of 2001.

Uriarte led Australia to qualification for the World Championships hosted in 2002 in Argentina, with the Aussies ranking 19th. Despite their location in Oceania, Australia participated in the Asian Championships, in which they finished fourth in 2003. In previous events they had won the silver medal in 2001 and 1999.

The Australian Volleyball Federation was founded in 1963, and the sport of Volleyball has rapidly increased in popularity since then, particularly in schools and recreational centers. The team commenced the ‘90’s ranked 10th in the Asian zone and has steadily risen through the ranks to their current ranking of 4th (Korea 1st, China 2nd, Japan 3rd).

A number of notable results were achieved in the late ‘90’s, including qualification for the 1998 World Championships in Japan (finished 17th). The only previous appearance in World Championships was in 1982 when Australia finished 22nd. 1999 saw Australia compete in the World League for the first time, relishing the opportunity to play against the world’s best teams.

A new look men’s team qualified for the 2002 World Championships in August 2001, and achieved a 2nd place finish at the 2001 Asian Championships in the same year. Aiming for the ‘Final 8’, the team of Daniel Howard, Benjamin Hardy, Zane Christensen, Hidde Van Beest, Brett Alderman and Luke Campbell (no. 21 in the world rankings) will make the long journey to Athens and take their bearings from the distinction they earned in the previous Olympic Tournament.