Volleyball quest begins in London

AMANDA ROBINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

Team Canada could be on its way to a million-dollar payday.

For six weeks, the men's volleyball team will face the top teams from six continents in the World League volleyball tournament. A top finish in its pool or in the tournament means the team federation could walk away with the cash payment of $1 million.

And a win in the big tournament is important for the team's hope of going to the Olympics.

Team Canada will start the tournament in London this weekend with matches today and tomorrow at the John Labatt Centre against Finland, which is ranked 33rd in the world.

Then the Canadians will play in Korea.

Londoner Paul Duerden, one of the top volleyball players in the world, is happy to return to his hometown.

"It's really huge," he said. "Volleyball isn't well followed in Canada. I've been playing for 14 years, 11 years in Europe and I've had a lot of fun, a lot of great matches, but no one knows about it."

"To have a high-quality event like the worlds in London, it's just great."

Duerden said he's looking forward to spending time with family and friends.

Glenn Hoag, Canada's coach since 2006, believes that having the first game in London will really help the team promote the sport more.

"They're high-calibre athletes and most of them play professional in Europe. That's why they're not seen, but they're national heroes," Hoag said. "They're people that have been training and playing for Canada for years and they play their heart out for this country."

Greg Smith, communications director for Volleyball Canada, said it's no surprise that the opener is in London.

London has been supportive of the sport of volleyball and the people have also shown a "great interest in Paul," Smith said.

So far, approximately 3000 tickets have been sold for the matches. Tickets are available at the JLC.

Team Canada will be back in Canada during the tournament to play games in Mississauga and Winnipeg.


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