Crystal Ja June 28, 2012
Prime Minister Julia Gillard meets with the Australian Olympic volleyball team at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Australia's underdog men's volleyball team wasn't even considered Olympic material.
But after securing a ticket to London with a shock straight-sets victory over China, the players only have themselves to blame for sending expectations skyrocketing.
Apart from host Britain, which gets an automatic berth, the world No.22 Australians will enter the London competition the lowest-ranked of the 12 teams - yet they're champing at the bit for the challenge. They're proven giant-killers, having downed 10th-ranked China in dominant fashion in a qualifier earlier this month to nab the last Olympic spot.
At one stage during the match, when victory was all but assured, 211-centimetre opposite Thomas Edgar turned to a teammate.
''Everyone was in shock,'' he said.
''We didn't expect it to happen like that. We expected a hard slog, but it was surreal, unbelievable.
''It's something off this planet to actually know we're going and we've got something to work for.''
It's the second time Australia has qualified for the men's volleyball competition at an Olympics, following the 2004 Athens Games and excepting Sydney in 2000 when as host Australia was given a free pass.
Coach Jon Uriarte conceded a medal in London was unlikely, but for the first time, the Aussies were a serious threat to their higher-ranked rivals.
''At Athens the atmosphere was that it was the achieving point just to go to the Olympics,'' he said. ''But it is not at all this time. Honestly, you can see day by day some little improvement. We want to crash many parties - that's our challenge.''
Australia's team was announced yesterday at Parliament House. AAP