October 05, 2016 - 1:38 PM
OTTAWA - Canadian men's volleyball star Gavin Schmitt has announced his retirement from the national team after helping the country to a quarter-final berth at the Olympic Games.
The six-foot-10 opposite hitter from Saskatoon played through pain in Rio after surgery for stress fractures in his leg in January. It was the second procedure of his career after undergoing the same in 2013.
Schmitt didn't completely close the door on a return to the national team in the future, but said his immediate priorities were to get healthy and fulfil his contract to play for the Polish club team Asseco Resovia this winter.
"It is no secret that I have battled injuries over the past few years, and I would really like to get over the ones that ailed me all summer and get through this season," the 30-year-old said in Wednesday's statement from Volleyball Canada.
"I love playing for Canada and love playing with the guys. It is going to be a big change and I am sure not an easy one by any means.
"While I won't be playing with the team anymore, I still hope to be around at events to support and help grow the sport."
The men's volleyball team played in the Summer Games for the first time since 1992 after claiming the last possible berth at a qualifying tournament in Japan.
"Finding out we had qualified for the Olympics is probably the most unforgettable emotional experience I have had in my playing career," Schmitt said.
Canada upset eventual bronze medallist United States to open the preliminary round in Rio en route to a quarter-final match against Russia.
The Canadians were swept in three straight by the Russians and finished fifth, which was Canada's best result at a non-boycotted Summer Games.
After making the national team in 2007, Schmitt became a key weapon in Canada's attack with intimidating jump serves and thunderous kills.
His ascension onto the national team coincided with Canada participating in the prestigious World League annually and moving up the world rankings to its current No. 8 post-Rio.
But head coach Glenn Hoag couldn't use Schmitt to his maximum in Rio in order to preserve his legs.
"I don't know how many rods they can put into him," Hoag said after the quarter-final loss. "I don't think he wants to have another operation. He's had it. The pain is too much."
Schmitt led Canada in scoring in six of seven games at the 2014 world championship en route to a best-ever seventh.
He was also Canada's top scorer in a bronze-medal effort at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
"Gavin gave everything he could, even when he was in pain," Hoag said. "He is passionate, and had a great impact on and off the court during his career with Team Canada."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016