Long journey for Ball ends in glory
Monday, 25 August 2008

REUTERS, BEIJING- The tattoo on Lloy Ball's arm says "Anger is a gift", but on Sunday the 36-year-old U.S. volleyball veteran was feeling pure joy when he ended his fourth Olympic Games with a gold medal.

"It's always one thing to be called an Olympian. You're an Olympian for life. To be called a gold medallist is—I don't know what goes on top of a cherry on a banana split but it's on top of that," Ball said after beating Brazil 3-1 in the final.
 
The medal on Sunday was the United States' first gold since 1988. That win, and the U.S. gold in 1984, inspired Ball to pursue a career in volleyball rather than basketball, which he played well enough to be offered a coveted spot on the Indiana University team.
 
He turned it down, and his journey to this moment has been tortuous. He left Atlanta, Sydney and Athens without a medal, and retired in frustration twice only to come back to give it another shot.
 
"After three Olympics and us not medalling the only real common theme was that I was the setter. As a young athlete in your 20s that starts to wear on you and your self confidence does go down," Ball said.
 
Coach Hugh McCutcheon took "a huge risk" to bring Ball back onto the team, Ball said, but the 2.03 metre (6 ft 8 in) setter has mellowed and said he was looked to as calming force.
 
"When you're young you're always looking for motives to win, whether it's you hate the other team or you want to be angry at this or you want to jack up with big music. For me at this age, I just enjoy playing," he said.
 
With the long-awaited gold medal around his neck, Ball said he would not compete in London.
 
"I came back. I got what I wanted. This time as I bow out my third time it will be more gracefully and without a return," he told reporters.

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