Terrace’s Olympic hopeful, volleyball player Jason Haldane, is just one of a few Olympians who got their first taste of large, multi-sport competition at the BC Summer Games.
Haldane attended both BC Summer and Winter Games in the ’80s as a young man in Kitwanga. He attended two BC Summer Games as a softball player, and the BC Winter Games as a curler.
He eventually ended up representing Team BC at the Canada Summer Games, playing the sport he has been excelling at ever since – volleyball.
Now, over 25 years later, he is in the home stretch on his road to the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Haldane has been training with his Great Britain Volleyball teammates in Sheffield since the end of April. He moves into the Olympic Village on July 23 – the same day as his 41st birthday.
“We’re in the home stretch here,” he said, on the phone from Sheffield last week. “The last weeks have been chaos. It’s been tough training this much, at the age I am. I’m just making sure I don’t get injured.”
The team’s training regime started off with an overload of training for the first eight weeks – two hours in the morning doing technical training, fitness, strengthening and conditioning followed by three hours in the court. Now it’s about an hour to an hour-and-a-half in the morning and two-and-a-half hours at night, five – six days a week.
This combined with travelling around Europe, places like Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Belgium, to play other professional teams.
Those games “were a real eye-opener for everyone,” he said.
Volleyball in Great Britain is a relatively new sport and hasn’t really been played at a high level, Haldane explained. “That’s one of the key reasons I’m on the team,” he said, citing his role as a team leader.
This will be the first time Great Britain will be represented in volleyball at the Olympics.
Haldane has been playing professional volleyball since the early ’90s. “I know all of the players on the other teams, I’ve played against everyone. I’m actually the oldest volleyball player in the Olympics,” he said.
Despite home-court advantage, Great Britain’s volleyball team is an underdog in the tournament. In their pool they have Italy and Poland, ranked third and fourth in the world, Argentina, ranked eighth, Austria, ranked 22nd, and Bulgaria, ranked ninth.
Great Britain, in comparison, is ranked 92nd.
“But we really are hoping for the best,” he said. “People aren’t expecting us to win, so if we can pull out a win it’ll be a huge victory. We have some really talented players, so you never know.”
With only a few weeks to go before opening ceremonies, Haldane says it’s starting to set in.
We were in Edinburgh for a game and were involved in a ceremony with the Olympic flame, he said. “That was the first real taste of it.”
He and his teammates also spent a day in the famed Olympic holding camp – getting fitted for Adidas clothing and gear, attending a drug-free seminar and learning about the general rules and protocols for the games and living in the Olympic Village.
But everyone he has spoken to that has been to the Olympics before “says [the experience of being there] is nothing you can ever imagine.”
Haldane, who carries a British passport but is from Terrace, is not the only person on the team hailing from another country.
“There’s three of us: me, one Brazilian and another guy from the U.S.,” he said.
Haldane’s mother will be flying to London from Terrace to watch the last game, he said. He’s hoping to make it back home to Terrace at the end of August to see his family.
One of his sons is also a volleyball player, who is currently trying out for provincials.
“He’s already a lot more talented than I was at that age,” he said.
And will he be bringing Terrace back an Olympic medal when he returns?
“I’m not going to get too ahead,” he said with a laugh. “But it would be great.”