TORONTO (August 13, 2015) – Tears flowed the down the faces of veterans Jose Rebelo and Doug Learoyd as they realized their dream to compete at the 2016 Paralympic Games is now unreachable.
The Canadian men’s sitting volleyball team had just lost their semifinal showdown against the U.S. on Thursday evening 26-24, 25-23, 16-25, 25-21. The prize for the winner was a ticket to Rio and a berth in Friday’s gold medal match against Brazil.
“There are guys on our team that have been working for up to 12 years to get to the Paralympics,” said Learoyd, a two-time Parapan Am Games bronze medallist, from Calgary. “We were so close to getting there. And add the fact we were competing at home, it kinds of emotional to have that taken from you in one moment.”
Unlike most of his teammates, Rebelo did compete at the Paralympics. That was back in 2000 as a member of the standing volleyball team which won silver. But he badly wanted to lead this group into another Games.
“This is one trip I wish would have finished differently,” said Rebelo, from Montreal. “I’ll now have to revisit my volleyball career after the Games but it could be the end of the road. I’ve given 19 years of my life to this and I think it’s time to move on.”
The Canadians battled the Americans hard in the first set which went to extra points. But the hosts squandered an important lead in the second to put themselves in a deep hole.
“We stayed in sets and we battled,” said Hinchey, Canada’s 23-year-old team captain. “We wanted a better start tonight and we did that but we just didn’t find a way to win late in the sets.”
The Canadian men face Colombia for the bronze on Friday at 11 a.m. followed by the women’s bronze medal match between Canada and Cuba at 1 p.m. The winner of that match puts their ticket in the hat for Rio.
Brazil swept the Canadians 3-0 in the women’s semifinal while the U.S. beat Cuba.