Landon Currie still remembers the chats he had with Derri-Ann Cooper, a teacher at Fulton Secondary.
The two started talking when Currie was in Grade 8 and continued throughout Currie’s five years at the Vernon secondary school. They’d chat about sports while Cooper was tutoring Currie, and about the multi-sports star’s future.
Cooper was one of the first people Currie thought about Monday, June 5, when, at 23, he was named to the Canadian men’s volleyball team.
“Derri-Ann believed in me and she’s been one of my biggest supporters in my career,” said Currie, 23, who finished his Canadian university playing eligibility with the Alberta Golden Bears, winning a national title in 2022.
Currie played for the Canadian junior men’s national squad in 2019.
“(The national team) is definitely a dream come true. I never thought I’d get this opportunity this early in my career, but the opportunity came up and I couldn’t say no.
“It’s been 10 years since Grade 8 and I’ve always dreamed of this moment. That I’m here now, it’s super surreal. I have to thank my family, friends, all my past coaches and teammates for their support in helping me achieve my goal.”
Named to the national squad as a libero – a position that only plays in the back-three court spots defensively, and the position he has starred in both at the U of A and Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops – Currie is one of 14 players chosen to wear the Maple Leaf by rookie head coach Tuomas Sammelvuo for the Volleyball Nations League event in Ottawa, starting today, Tuesday, June 6.
The Volleyball Nations League is the fifth edition of the premier annual competition for men’s and women’s national teams. Three countries have won the men’s competition so far, including Russia, Brazil and France.
Canada’s best finish was seventh in 2018.
The new format will see 16 men’s teams competing in pools of eight teams during the pool phase. Each team plays 12 matches during the pool stage. Eight teams will then move into the final knockout phase of the competition.
Canada is hosting the U.S.A., Argentina, Italy, Cuba, Germany, Netherlands and Brazil in Ottawa. Canada opens against Cuba June 6 and then, with his mom and dad, Jamie and Dan, in attendance, Currie and Canada will face Argentina June 9, the U.S.A. on June 10, and Germany on June 11.
In the second week of pool play, Canada heads to France and is in a group with Argentina, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Japan, Brazil, Cuba and France. In Week 3, they’ll be in the Philippines taking on Brazil, Netherlands, Slovenia, Italy, China, Poland, and Japan.
The top eight teams advance to the finals in Poland.
“We’re going to be underdogs heading into every match,” said Currie. “Last year wasn’t maybe the best for us. This year we’re excited. We have an energetic new head coach, a lot of young guys, a lot of old guys, and we’re gelling really well, so advancing is not impossible. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.”
The Volleyball Nations League matches are also vital with Olympic qualifying coming up in the fall.
“Every game counts toward (world) rankings,” said Currie. Canada is currently slotted 16th in the world. “We need to boost our rankings before the Olympic qualifiers in October in China. The VNL will be a big test and help us get ready for the Olympic qualifier.
Trying to get Canada to the Paris Olympics in 2024 will be Currie’s focus through the Olympic qualifiers. Later in the fall, he’ll turn his attention to a professional career in the sport.
Currie – who is a few credits away from a University of Alberta business degree – signed a one-year deal to play with a team in Nice, France.
“I was at (CIS) nationals and an agent approached me there,” said Currie. “We’ve been talking ever since. We had a lot of leads before finalizing things with Nice. A contract is signed and sealed, and I’m looking forward to getting there.”