The Canadian men's volleyball team - with Victoria's Josh Howatson and Fred Winters starting - fell just short of qualifying for the 2012 London Summer Olympics Saturday night.
Canada has not been to the Olympics in men's volleyball since Barcelona in 1992 and now has again perhaps been denied by the defending 2008 Beijing Olympic champion Americans.
The U.S. stamped its ticket to London with a 28-26, 25-18, 25-20 victory over Canada in the North American and Caribbean qualifier for London 2012 at Long Beach, California.
It was Canada's first loss of the qualifier after four victories and dampened an otherwise monumental performance in the tournament by Canadian captain Winters, a dynamic hitter out of Claremont Secondary.
Canada must now wait to see if it will be invited to one of three last-chance Olympic qualifiers being held next month in Rome, Berlin and Tokyo. But despite the breathless upset run to Saturday's regional Olympic final, Howatson believes Canada's No. 18 world ranking may prove problematic when the lastchance qualifier invites are being handed out.
"You never know, but we put all our eggs in this [Long Beach regional qualifier] basket," said Howatson, a silky setter out of Oak Bay High.
If Howatson does still get to the London Olympics, it will close a unique familial circle. Howatson's grandfather, retired Victoria doctor Bill Bell, played basketball for Canada the last time the Summer Olympics were held at London in 1948.
"It would be a great thing and something that's a really special thought for my whole family," said Howatson.
LONDON CALLING: Down the I-5 corridor from Long Beach, Victoria racers Simon Whitfield and Brent McMahon were 11th and 29th, respectively, and Kyle Jones of Oakville, Ont., 12th Saturday at the Triathlon World Series race in San Diego. The placings were crucial and will go a long way toward guaranteeing Canada three men's berths in the London Olympics.
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