Comox Valley volleyball star playing pro in Poland

Life in Gdansk is good for Brad Gunter.

A typical day starts with a coffee and light breakfast, then he hits the volleyball court for a workout and short skills session, where his team works on defence, setting or serving. Then it’s home for lunch and a short nap before evening practice, which is usually full game play working on ways to stop opponents. There is, however, some time in the afternoon for watching TV, reading or strolling the streets of the port city on the Baltic coast of Poland.

“We practice five times a week and play one game on the weekend, usually,” Gunter, 23, said by email. “We have some long bus rides the day before away games. Also, we watch video of our opponents multiple times before a match.”

Before reaching the professional level in Europe, Gunter had learned the fundamentals of volleyball while growing up in the Comox Valley. He then became a star player at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. He was named CIS Player of the Year in 2014, and graduated as Canada West’s all-time points leader. In 2016, he was selected to play with the Canadian senior men’s B team that placed third at the XI Pan-American Cup in Mexico — the qualifying competition for the FIVB (Federation Internationale de Volleyball) World League.

In Poland, his team name is the Trefl Gdansk Lions, which competes in the Plusliga, one of the best volleyball leagues in the world. At the early stages of the season, the Lions are sporting a 4-1 record and ranked seventh out of 16 teams. The league has many Olympic-level players from some of the top national teams in the world.

“I definitely would say I am playing against some of the world’s top players,” he said.

Standing 6’6,” Gunter is now a member of Canada’s senior A team, which is ranked sixth in the world. In summer, he was playing right side with the national squad that competed in the FIVB World League. The season consisted of nine games of pool play before the final six tournament in Brazil, where Canada beat the number two-ranked Americans for bronze. Gunter did not travel to the final six in Brazil but was on the roster.

Next summer, the national team will again compete in World League. Then in September, the focus switches to the world championships, which are every four years. As a team, the long-term goal is to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“So every competition we play in till then is fighting for our worldwide ranking so we can qualify for the Olympics,” Gunter said. “As for personal goals, I am working to secure a spot on the travel roster and then into the starting lineup. And, of course, everyday trying to improve my game and staying healthy so I can continue to live the lifestyle of a professional athlete.”

Trips home are usually short, maybe four to 10 days, three or four times in summer. Visits usually involve spending a day or two relaxing at Comox Lake — and visiting family members whose support is never forgotten.

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