London 2012
Canadian-born Jason Haldane is celebrating his first Olympic appearance with Team GB at the "tender" age of 41
Great Britain middle blocker Jason Haldane
Great Britain Jason Haldane asking to the referee
Great Britain's Jason Haldane spikes
Great Britain's Ben Pipes and Jason Haldane
Great Britain team

 

Jason Haldane, a maple leaf heart with a Brit flag

London, Great Britain, August 2, 2012 - Being a 41-year-old middle blocker, Great Britain Jason Haldane shows a perfect shape. Before the libero era, the middle blockers were the first to get old in every volleyball team. Too many jumps for them, faking and doing attacks alternatingly, and they were always on the court, with some of them who then became expert of the back row spike – other jumps to be added to the total calculation at the end of their career. Now the libero breaks the rhythm and gives them rest, but the center of the net is a tough place to spend your time when you’re more than 35.

London, Great Britain, August 2, 2012 - Being a 41-year-old middle blocker, Great Britain Jason Haldane shows a perfect shape. Before the libero era, the middle blockers were the first to get old in every volleyball team. Too many jumps for them, faking and doing attacks alternatingly, and they were always on the court, with some of them who then became expert of the back row spike – other jumps to be added to the total calculation at the end of their career. Now the libero breaks the rhythm and gives them rest, but the center of the net is a tough place to spend your time when you’re more than 35.

“Well, I do my best but I have to confess that sometime it’s even hard to get out of the bed” confesses the leader of Great Britain team, at their debut in an Olympic Games.

When London was sure to host the Olympics, the British National Federation thought that, together with the best but young GB players, an expertise was needed. Jason Haldane, despite of his age, was the first choice. He had an English passport and his career was testifying his volleyball knowledge: he had been playing in the top championships of The Netherlands, France, Italy, Greece, Russia, Turkey and Bulgaria, making him a real globe trotter.

Haldane tried to qualify for the Canadian Olympic team three times but eventually was never in the team. That’s why he asked the FIVB board of administration for a change of his Federation of origin, a procedure which after the approval gave him the chance to wear the jersey of Team GB.  

He had his 41st birthday just four days before the opening ceremony. A memorable birthday celebrated with Great Britain first Olympic appearance.

“I’ve learnt a lot of my volleyball playing professionally in France and then in all the other country I’ve been. I tried to pass along the experience but it’s difficult when you don’t have so many top international matches through the summer. We did not get in the last CEV European League, it really hurts the level that we needed coming in the Olympic Games. We’re in a strong pool. Australia is number 22 in the world ranking, sure, but think about their international experience of their players, compared to ours.”

As happened to the women’s team, the problem of the financial constraints in the preparation for the Olympics was one of the biggest problems faced by the team. Especially because of the timing: just before the Olympics.

“Of course it’s always more difficult if you have a lack of money: we got experience in the European League and the most important year you could not participate in the competition. As a player, if you want to progress you need to play top matches. Of course we’re not able to play the FIVB World League, but the CEV European League anyway puts you every week under pressure and you learn by playing. It’s a huge benefit. But we could not have it.”

In the era of melting pot, changing flag is not a big issue. In any case Jason Haldane is not the man who takes things lightly.

“It’s always difficult to change country. I had a lot of loyalty to Canada, they helped me, they gave me a lot of opportunities and the chance to play as an international player. I feel like I have a maple leaf in my heart but I’m 100% with GB team. I want to do the best to win for the country.”

And after the Olympics? What will happene when the lights of Earls Court will switch off, when the incredible attendance will flow out of the stands?

“Our legacy is a serious issue. I have some doubts because of what I’ve seen through Canada, France, Italy, anywhere else in Europe. If you want to progress you should watch what the Australians did when they hosted the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000 and where they are now. They qualified again for the Olympics. It didn’t come overnight, it takes a lot of work to become a popular sport. You need to make sure you grow the sport and get us players more involved with the kids, doing more camps. In Canada they’ve done that. I was shocked to go back to Canada seeing how many people are involved and interested in volleyball. It’s a very difficult task to leave a legacy. The last days with 15,000 people per sessions, with spectators so excited, well, everyone would like to make sure that this thing will continue. I wish I had the answers, I wish I could have done a lot more. I hope that they will continue to insist.”

After the Olympics, there will be a one way ticket for his volleyball shoes.

“For me, it’s pretty much, I’m going to retire. My goal was to participate in the Olympics and to win two or three games and to qualify for the quarter finals. That dream is extremely difficult, but I’m happy because I worked hard enough to be able to still play at this level. Maybe I’m not talented as the younger kids but I had determination. It is tough, at 41 you know you have to put more and more effort in your physical preparation and you’ve got make sure it’s pretty much. This summer I’ve been breathing, eating, living only volleyball and the only way you can do it is spending a lot of time in the gym, not only lifting weights but with “cardio”, with the balls. Of course I’ve got problems like the rest of us, but I think I have to dig a little deeper. Sometimes in the morning I cannot walk, but being here was the dream of my life, to be able to play the Olympic Games. I had the chance. The competition is high and it hurts me because I don’t fill like I’m 41. I’m still young at heart and I want to win. That’s the main thing for me.”

 

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I’m 41 but I’m still young at heart and I want to win
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Additional information

One of the key point for Great Britain Olympic preparation happened when the team was completely relocated to Amstelveen in The Netherlands, where they played a full season in the Dutch Pro A League as Club Martinus