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U of T's Josh Binstock at the Olympics

Josh Binstock and Martin Reader (photo courtesy of Josh Binstock)

Alumnus Josh Binstock and partner Martin Reader defeated John Garcia-Thompson and Steve Grotowski of Great Britain July 28 in the first preliminary-round match for both men's beach volleyball teams. Binstock, a former Varsity Blues athlete, was a University All Canadian first team all-star. He won his ticket to London after winning at the Olympic Trials on his home turf at Ashbridges Bay.

After landing in London, Binstock took some time to speak with writer Gavin Au-Yeung about his preparations, focused mindset and the London atmosphere.

What are your initial reactions upon landing in London?

London’s a place with a lot of class and it’s a real privilege to be here. Motivation is high and I’m excited to start the competition.

I am honoured and excited to play at [Horse Guards Parade]. It’s a high profile venue; it’s across the street from Buckingham Palace, so the Queen is our neighbour. We’re excited to play in a venue of such stature.

How’s the atmosphere in the Olympic Village?

The village is cool; it’s like a mini-city. We’re surrounded by the best athletes in the world, the food is amazing, and the vibe is amazing. Everybody’s feeding off each other’s energy – it’s infectious.

There’s a respect for competition in the Village, and there’s an etiquette that you should follow: Everyone is friendly and respectful in the Village, but once you get on the courts, you’re enemies and you got to get ready to win.

Beach volleyball is incredibly popular during the Olympics; as a player, can you describe the growth of the sport since the inaugural event in 1996?

In ’96, my old coach got the bronze medal, which helped the sport grow tremendously in Canada. I remember watching him as a kid and wanting to play beach. Now here I am in that same position and we have the country and the world watching. I hope to inspire athletes to start playing beach volleyball in Canada and across the world.

How do the Olympics stack up against your prior competitions?

The Continental Cup was the event which secured our spot in the Games, which was big. But now that we made the team, this is definitely the most significant tournament I’ve played in my career.

How have you been preparing for the Games? What’s your weekly training routine like?

We usually have two practice sessions one day, then one on the next followed by a gym session. When it gets closer to competition we take some time to rest and have a few lighter workouts.

For the trials, we had a week to prepare and we knew who our opponents would be. So we studied their strategies and organized our practiced according to their tendencies. Our coach goes through certain things with us and we bring in another team to emulate the opponent and implement our strategy.

How does your background as a chiropractor help in your preparations?

It helps me with keeping my body in a good state. I can tell if my muscles are feeling tension, if my joints are feeling good, if I’m properly hydrated, and to keep my nutrition in check.

All athletes have a certain level of awareness for their body – but studying the body in depth for many years definitely gives me an added advantage.

Does being the only Canadian team in beach volleyball carry added pressure?

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t pressure. But at the same time, I’m comfortable with it. I’m not going to divert it and pretend it’s not there. We’ve been in pressure situations before and performed well to come out on top.

Your first match is against Great Britain; how will the cheering of the home crowd affect you?

We’re going to relish and embrace it [competing against the home crowd]. To even secure the Olympic spot, we had to beat the Mexican team in Mexico with thousands of their fans cheering against us. Obviously I love being cheered for, but it’s fun being cheered against as well. I love being the hero for the home crowd or the villain against the away crowd.

Also, there’s going to be some pressure on the British to perform and we’re going to go in there and play role of the spoilers. It’s just more motivation for us.

What’s your pre-game routine?

I eat three hours before a match, visualization exercises two hours prior, and my physical warm-ups one hour beforehand. During my warm-ups I perform specific exercises which help my flow and to become 100% activated.

Usually all athletes are creatures of habit, they usually don’t change routine because they like something familiar.

How have U of T and the Varsity Blues program helped develop you into the athlete you are today?

It helped me a lot; the quality of education combined with the facilities and staff prepared me as a high level athlete. The program is disciplined and structured to push athletes to compete at the highest level. And my education at U of T helped me become a chiropractor which helps me in my career as well.

What other events are you looking forward to in London?

I’d like to see [USA basketball] live, that’s a cool chance to see the best players in the NBA together. And I’d like to watch Milos Raonic [tennis] as well, I was talking to him a couple of weeks before and it’ll be nice to see him.

What’s in store for you after the Games?

We have our national championships about two weeks after the Games and then we play a couple tournaments in the States before the season ends.

After each season I always reassess and see what the plan is. All I know right now is that we are focusing on the Olympics and after it’s over I’ll figure out what’s the best decision.