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Ipswich born Olympian’s fond memories of Athens 2004

Australia’s 2004 Olympic volleyball team with Ipswich’s Grant Sorensen second left front row

As a young boy Olympian Grant Sorensen would play sport from sunup to sundown seven days a week with his twin brother

They graduated to little athletics at the age of five and remained involved for about 10 years.

This keen interest in sport at an early age would ultimately set Ipswich born Sorensen on a journey to the Athens Olympics in 2004.

He has vivid memories of growing up in Bundamba not far from the train line, attending Sacred Heart Primary School and St Edmund’s College, and as a kid would ride his bike with mates from school from one end of the city to the other every weekend.

At a young age he also was interested in what was going on with new buildings in the suburbs and he watched keenly as new parks and gardens opened across the city. This interest would ultimately lead to a career at Ipswich City Council.

Grant Sorensen admitted he was always obsessed with sport. This included cricket, soccer, athletics, and later rugby and basketball.

“It was in grade nine that I first took up volleyball as a change from cricket,” he said.

“Volleyball was a low profile and high school oriented sport and I decided to take it up at St Edmund’s College.

“That same year I was in the Queensland schoolboy’s team.

“Looking back I think a lot of successful volleyball players are people who have come from multiple sport backgrounds with exposure to a lot of different sports.”

He said having a bit of height was helped although he is one of shorter players in the professional volleyball world.

“Athletics, high jump and sprinting were my strengths. It all came naturally to my brother and I.

“If we weren’t training at high school we’d be playing in the backyard so we’d be getting extra training just by playing together.”

He readily admitted doing badly when it came to balancing sport with study.

“I was always playing at least one or two sports through high school and always preferred going to training over homework.

“My Queensland representation started when I was 14 and the first Australian rep side was at age 17 when selected for the national junior team.”

Grant Sorensen graduated from high school in 1999. The following year he scored a volleyball scholarship at the University of Queensland.

“Between 1999 and 2004 volleyball had taken me to over 40 countries and between 2001 and 2004 I held a scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.

“In 2001 I start playing with the Australian men’s team and progressed to the Athens Olympics in 2004.”

The public pressure to perform in a lower profile sport such as volleyball was not as great. It allowed players to fly under the radar according to Grant Sorensen.

“If you look at other higher profile sports TV is constantly reporting how many medals Australia is going to win, so as a volleyball player it allowed us to focus.”

Reflecting on the 2004 volleyball squad he said it was one of the best teams our country had produced for an Olympics.

It wasn’t all sport while in Athens. Players did have time out to be a tourist in the birthplace of the games.

“To be able to venture around a city where you can see the original archery stadium and some of the historic features that were used at the original Olympics was mind-blowing.”

Life after being a professional athlete or playing at an elite level is something athletes must eventually face.

For Grant Sorensen before the Olympics he played professionally in Austria for a year and he realised he couldn’t come back home to study and have a family while playing professionally.

“I had to decide pretty early that I’d have to give it away. It was painful to make this decision because in 2004 I was offered a lucrative contract to play in Europe in the lead up to the Olympics.

“I ended up walking away from it having decided to retire from the Australian team during the Olympics which was really hard.

“In the end it was the best decision. It allowed me get back into a career of urban design and landscape architecture.

“And of course getting married and having a family.”

Life post-Olympics saw Grant Sorensen complete university and gain employment in the private sector as a landscape architect before joining Ipswich City Council in April 2010.

“In this current role at council it enables me to indulge in my passion for more green spaces, water sensitive urban design and developing long term visions and strategies for the city.”

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