By his own admission, Paul Carroll says after 20 years of almost non-stop volleyball, his body needs to be carefully managed. But he is keen to be part of Australia’s campaign to qualify for next year’s Olympics.
Paul was rested from the recently completed Volleyball Nations League to ensure he fully recovered from a knee injury, courtesy of a gruelling season playing club volleyball in Siberia.
“Basically it is about recovery,” says Paul, “I couldn’t play anymore, and being 33 years of age, I needed to rest. If I kept pushing, then maybe I wouldn’t be able to play again.”
He appears energised, being around the team at a training camp at the Centre of Excellence in Canberra. This is in preparation for the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Italy, where Australia takes on the home team, Serbia and Cameroon, with the top team making it through. Paul admits, “We’ve got a really tough draw, which is what happens every time we play.”
Then there is a second chance for the top eight teams through the Asian Championships in September, with another qualifying tournament in January.
Being back with the team at the AIS, there is a sense of purpose in training for Paul; ”It’s cool to be back in Canberra preparing for the Olympic qualifiers where most of us started playing high level volleyball.”
Ten of the 14 players who were involved in the 2016 Olympic qualifying campaign, in which Australia just missed out making it through, have returned to be part of the campaign for the 2020 Olympics. Paul recalls, “Last time we had just the one chance at the World Qualifying Tournament in Japan and it was pretty heartbreaking for us because we missed out by one team.”
For Paul next year’s Olympics have been a long held goal; “It’s been a long road,” he says, “I’ve done plenty in volleyball and now I’m looking to make the Olympic Games and that’s the last tournament I would love to play in and represent Australia.”
That long road has had many setbacks. In 2004 he was part of the national team but just missed out as the 13th player in the 12 player Australian team. Then in 2012, shoulder surgery prevented him from going to the Olympics in London.
Now rested after sitting out the VNL, Paul is ready to go again, but at 33 years of age, is fully conscious of the stresses the game places on his body; ”Literally its 12 months of the year with only one day off a week, and everyday jumping. Our bodies weren’t made for doing this.” But he is invigorated by the prospect of qualifying for the Olympics.