TOKYO : World bronze medallists Bulgaria clinched a place at the Beijing Olympics when they defeated Argentina in the men’s World Cup volleyball tournament on Sunday.
The Bulgarians rallied to a 25-17, 25-22, 25-23 victory for a 9-2 win-loss record to secure one of the top three places in the 12-team round robin competition to join world champions Brazil at the Olympics.
The top three finishers in the World Cup qualify for the Beijing Olympics next year.
It is only the seventh time that Bulgaria have qualified for the Olympics and the first since the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Their best finish was as the runners-up in the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
“This was an extremely important game, especially for me personally, because this is maybe the last chance to go to the Olympics. The Olympics are dreams for every athlete,” said Nikolov Vladimir who scored 11 points.
“Now we are tired, very tired, we put maximum concentration, maximum motivation, and I’m very happy that we won.”
Captain Plamen Konstantinov said: “This was the most important tournament for us this year, and maybe all the last four years, we were preparing for this year to reach the Olympic Games next year.”
“So it’s a big day for Bulgarian volleyball. We didn’t qualify for the last two Olympic Games, so it was a very important goal,” he added.
Bulgarian coach Martin Stoev said the biggest different from their performance at the European championships two months ago was the format of the tournament in which they were drawn in a stronger preliminary group.
Bulgaria eventually ended at a lowly eighth in Europe.
“This was not our best game, but the most important thing is the victory. Our players are getting tired and we had also small injuries,” Stoev said. – AFP/ch
Channel News Asia