VOLLEYBALL: Dream comes true as Rachel gets nod for Olympics

Team GB Volleyball press call at the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield. Rachel Laybourne
Team GB Volleyball press call at the English Institute of Sport, Sheffield. Rachel Laybourne
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SOME things are worth the wait, writes Richard Fidler.

For Sheffield’s volleyball Olympian Rachel Laybourne it was the agonising moments before Great Britain coach Audrey Cooper delivered the sentence she’d been waiting for.

She was going to the Games.

Another delay was being able to tell the world. For a week she’d had to keep the secret. Only those on the very inside of British volleyball knew who the 12 players in the women’s squad were going to be.

Rachel, aged 30, a former student at Meadowhead and All Saints schools, said receiving the good news was an emotional moment.

“I found out last Monday, but we had to promise that once we’d been told we had to keep it under wraps. It was a one-on-one meeting with Audrey. I have never been as nervous!

“She went through a structured criteria so that every person got the same line, so it didn’t look like she was favouring one person.

“It wasn’t until she got to the end that she said ‘I’m delighted to tell you that...’ I was like, ‘wow!’

“There was tears on the phone to my mum afterwards. Tears of elation and joy and excitement. Everything rolled into one.

“My mum said ‘smashing’ and congratulations.”

It was a typically Sheffield response but Laybourne is a typical Sheffield girl.

Funny, down-to-earth, hard-working and quick to have a laugh she’ll be the born-and-bred member of a squad that have all been adopted by the Steel City.

When their funding was cut by UK Sport in 2010 it was a combination of Sheffield businesses who clubbed together to make sure the women’s team would still be able to compete in London.

A shoulder injury that required surgery last year was another hurdle that Laybourne had to overcome, but now, talking to The Star at the team’s English Institute of Sport base in Attercliffe, she said it was all worthwhile.

“I’d always dreamt that it would end like this, but there were days when I didn’t think it would,” she said.

“After I’d just had my surgery and the rest of the girls had gone out to Europe, I was home in a sling disheartened and so far away from this point.

“It’s amazing to actually realise that I’ve got here.

“At this point now it is incredibly rewarding. I think about what if we had been funded fully all the way through the past five years.

“I think we’ve got the advantage of working incredibly hard for something that was something that seemed to be impossible. It gives you the grit and determination.

“I’m glad we’re here and I’m hoping that journey will help us.”

The journey to get to London may be over, but the hard work could just be beginning.

Laybourne said: “I want people to be proud of my achievements not just that I have made the team.”

On Saturday, July 28 at around 3pm, Laybourne and her team will play Russia.

And the wait will be over.