Comox-raised Tom Graham, a graduate of Vanier Secondary who competed at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, has been named to the 2022 Volleyball BC Hall of Fame class as a player.
After winning an Island championship in Grade 11 under coach Irv Knight, Graham became a member of the University of Victoria Vikings squad in the 74/75 season. He then made the men’s national team at age 19 in 1975 — just a year out of high school. He recalls it was an “insanely physical tryout camp” in Sudbury, Ont., from where he was selected to the Olympic training squad. He was the 15th guy on the squad, but only 12 could go to the Montreal Games. However, three guys quit the team for various reasons.
“It was an interesting dynamic,” Graham said from his home in Saskatoon, from where he works virtually for UBC. “While I knew I was going to the Olympics if I played my cards correctly, I was also now the only player on the team who hadn’t put in the previous year’s brutal training with coach (Bill) Neville.”
The coach made him “do something unpleasant” after practices — in front of the rest of the team — to make up the difference. Eventually, some of the guys told Neville the time had come to take it easy on the kid.
“Let’s call it a rite of passage,” Graham said.
Canada finished ninth out of 10 teams in Montreal, where Poland beat the Soviet Union in the men’s volleyball final.
“We had two years essentially together,” Graham said, noting Neville believed a team needed four to five years together to make a splash at the international level.
Along with the Olympics, Graham represented Canada at the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City, the World Student Games in Bulgaria, the World Cup in Japan and the World Championships in Italy.
After Montreal, he won two CIAU titles in three seasons with the University of Manitoba Bisons volleyball team. He had played against some of his university teammates in 1975 on the gold medal-winning Team B.C. at the Canada Winter Games. In 2020, that team was inducted into the Volleyball BC Hall of Fame.
Graham has coached the sport at UVic, Trinity Western College, the U of Saskatchewan and the U of Manitoba. He has been inducted into sports hall of fames in Manitoba as a player with the Bisons from 1977-1980, and in Saskatchewan for coaching the 1988 national championship team.
He will be officially inducted into the Volleyball BC Hall of Fame as a player on March 23.
Graham and his wife Anne-Marie, who have three children, hope to relocate to the Comox Valley in the near future.
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