Kyla Richey hopeful for 2020 Olympic qualification

Volleyball

With another season of international volleyball competition with Team Canada behind her, Kyla Richey is setting her sights on the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The six-foot-tall 29-year-old is optimistic the time is right for the team to qualify, and as a recently named team captain, she will be tasked with leading them there.

Richey touched down on the Sunshine Coast for a week in October to visit her family in Roberts Creek and participate in community events, including a coaching session at Chatelech before starting her winter season in Lima, playing in Peru’s professional league. During her visit she spoke with Coast Reporter about what’s ahead for her and Team Canada.

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The outside player has belonged to Canada’s senior women’s team since 2009, and her staying power was rewarded this year with her appointment as team captain. “I’ve been fortunate to have a really long volleyball career with the national team and professional teams,” Richey told Coast Reporter.

Her goal as team captain is to bring the team together, which has added several new players to its ranks recently. “I always feel that teams just need a deep sense of camaraderie,” she said. “Nobody has to be best friends, but there needs to be the same level of work ethic and the same level of respect if you want to have success,” she said.

This year, success is palpable, despite a couple setbacks. The team beat Brazil (ranked 4th) and the Dominican Republic (ranked 9th) as well as Germany, Turkey and Bulgaria in exhibition games during their European Tour in August.

However, this fall the team was eliminated at the world volleyball championship in Japan, with one win and four losses, which Richey said “was not supposed to happen,” since they were projected to make the second round. Serbia won the tournament, beating Italy in the finals. Richey also endured a calf injury, which will require ongoing care. “I have been on the team a long time and have seen other teammates recover from really tough horrifying injuries,” she said when asked how it could affect her play.

Team Canada has had difficulty qualifying for the Olympics. This will be Richey’s fourth try. She said one of the major disadvantages for Canada is geography. “It is difficult to be in Canada when in Europe the best national teams are there and can drive an hour to play an excellent team,” she explained. “We had less than 10 official international games and some European teams are getting 70.”

Still, Richey said she is hopeful the stars could align for this Olympics cycle. “It feels more realistic. Instead of hoping it will happen … we’re kind of planning who we have to beat and how we’re going to do it,” she said.

Chances to qualify for the Olympics will begin in 2019, with the top ranked team qualifying automatically. Another chance will come with NORCECA competitions, as well as the Pan American Games. Team Canada placed fourth at NORCECA in 2013.

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