Volleyball: Brits thrive in spiky atmosphere

CHRIS Lamont is nearing the end of his volleyball journey. The Great Britain middle blocker played his last match on Scottish soil yesterday at Edinburgh University’s Pleasance Sports Complex – a 26-24, 14-25, 23-25, 19-25 loss to Belgium who took the series 3-0 – and now he crosses the border on business for one final time as the Olympic countdown quickens.

The GB squad are based in Sheffield but Lamont, who first took up the game at Shawlands Academy and went on to play in the Scottish League for City of Glasgow Ragazzi, has been chasing a volleyball professionally throughout Europe.

Germany, Belgium, Holland and, most recently, France, with Pro A League side Lyon, have been on his itinerary. Playing in London 2012 is the prize and, although the final squad for the Olympics will not be named until later this month, it is safe to assume he be in it.

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The Great Britain team, playing in their first Olympics, will rub shoulders with the world’s elite of Italy, Poland, Argentina, Bulgaria and Australia and Lamont will bask in the media glare only such a stage can offer.

It has not been an easy road he has travelled. Five years ago, under Dutch coach Harry Brokking, the decision was taken to send the squad to Amstelveen to play in the Dutch Pro A League after special dispensation was granted.

It is fair to say that some of the more established Dutch clubs did not wholly welcome the upstarts. It was three months before the GB team managed a win and Lamont must have wondered what he had let himself in for as part of a strict training regime which allowed little time to see outside of a sports hall and a weights gym.

“It was probably the lowest point in my career, regarding the bad results,” the 29 year-old recalled. “But Harry knew what he was doing – he was pushing us more than he had to. If we had been more interested in winning games, then we could have done better but he had his eyes on a bigger goal.

“He absolutely destroyed us out there and it was a very tough time both mentally and physically. The other clubs all worked extra hard against us because we were a national side, there’s no doubt about that. I’m sure we’d have done the same if their national team played in our leagues.

“Accommodation was horrible, the money was horrible, the training facilities were okay but the training load was intense. Also, we didn’t really know each other that well when we were there so we were all pushing to be better than each other. There was friction and heated battles now and then. But Harry likes that as it shows the players have passion.

“Only this week, he was stressing to us that he wants to see more fight in the team and wants to see us pushing each other really hard. It’s not a nice atmosphere when we’re shouting at each other but it’s for the better of the team. After we do get at each other’s throats, the level does raise.”