Olympic gold medallists USA sample 2012 venue

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter

The United States men's team, reigning Olympic champions, say Earls Court is one of the best volleyball venues they have played in.

The US joined Great Britain in a six-team London 2012 test event last week.

"I think it's beautiful, the surface is great, the lighting is fantastic," said US captain Kevin Hansen.

"We loved it and we're excited about feeling that Olympic atmosphere when it comes to that first serve here in London in 12 months' time."

The US fielded only two Olympic gold medal winning players in their last match, which was a repeat of the 2008 Olympic final against Brazil.

However, despite resting some of their most estalished players themselves, it was the South Americans who triumphed over five sets, leaping above the US into the silver medal position.

"It does taste like a little revenge," said Brazil skipper Eder Carbonera.

"The main thing for us though is to be in the finals and win the gold medals next year.

"For the team it was great to play together and come to London and get ready for the next Olympics, but also for some of us for 2016, because Brazil really believe in generating new talent and this is the way that they get the experience and learn."

Fielding a full-strength team, Serbia were the overall winners, losing just the once, an upset at the hands of Egypt.

"Serbia are a great volleyball country, their volleyball minds are second to none," said Hansen.

"They have great outside hitters that have experience and they have some tall guys that can hit some pretty strong serves, we expected them to be strong and they were."

Great Britain finished fifth in the table, but for a side ranked 94 in the global standingsexternal-link, this was an impressive achievement, including wins over Egypt (14th) and Mexico (21st).

GB's Dami Bakare also finished as the tournament's top scorer with 78 points.

"It means everything to the team," said GB skipper Ben Pipes.

"It's the collaberation of four years of hard work and it's also ticks a massive box in terms of our progression towards 2012."

Great Britain's Dan Hunter added, "If you've got 15,000 people in here who are going to be screaming for GB then it's going to be awesome for us and hopefully we can get a few wins like we've done at the test event."

Hansen was impressed with what he saw in the GB team.

"Their volleyball has come a long way, they have a lot of good young players, a great setter and they're going to be improving over this next year, so could be a contender come the Olympic Games."

As hosts, Great Britain's place at the 2012 Olympics is guaranteed, but for the other nations, chasing the remaining 11 men's and 11 women's positions, their first opportunity will come at the World Cup event in Japan in Novemberexternal-link.

From there three teams from each gender will qualify, with the final London line-up due to be announced in June next yearexternal-link.

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