Clay Stanley announced his retirement, becoming the latest member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic champion team to bow out from indoor volleyball.
Stanley, 38, played in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics and was MVP and Best Server at the 2008 Beijing Games, where the U.S. earned gold for the first time in 20 years.
“When he first came to the USA gym, he was kind of a blunt instrument,” 2008 U.S. men’s coach Hugh McCutcheon said, according to USA Volleyball. “At the end of the 2008 quad, he could do so many things at a high level. He became one of the best in the world at his position”
Stanley was one of the older members of the 2012 Olympic team that lost in the quarterfinals. Stanley picked up a knee injury in London and never again played in a major tournament for the U.S.
“We reached a level with my knee that we couldn’t get past,” Stanley said, according to USA Volleyball. “If I can’t be ready to play right now then I’ve got to shut it down. We did everything we could and that’s that.”
Stanley’s retirement follows that of 2008 Olympic teammates Reid Priddy and David Lee, who both made the Rio Games their final national-team appearance, according to The Associated Press, though Priddy hopes to transition to beach volleyball.
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The U.S. men’s volleyball team will compete in its ninth straight Olympics, qualifying for Rio by winning the FIVB World Cup in Japan on Wednesday.
The U.S. went 10-1 in the tournament where the top two nations earned Olympic spots. Italy and 2014 World champion Poland also went 10-1, with the U.S. and Italy bettering Poland via tiebreakers. It marked the U.S.’ first World Cup title since 1985.
Brazil, the U.S. and Italy are the first three nations in the 12-team Olympic tournament. The other nine will be determined via later qualifying events.
The U.S. men earned gold at the 2008 Olympics and were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympics (won by Russia) and the 2014 World Championship (won by Poland). Brazil is ranked No. 1 in the world and will of course benefit from home-court advantage in volleyball-mad Rio.
The U.S., ranked No. 5, could feature a roster in Rio that’s very different than four years ago. Stalwarts Clay Stanley and Reid Priddy, both three-time Olympians, face younger competition for roster spots (and Priddy is trying to come back from major injury).
Neither Stanley nor Priddy was on the FIVB World Cup roster of 14 players. The Olympic roster size is 12.
Matt Anderson, 28 and a 2012 Olympian, is the three-time reigning U.S. men’s indoor Player of the Year. Taylor Sander, 23, leads the wave of players eyeing their first Olympics.
The last three U.S. Olympic men’s teams have included zero players younger than 25.
The U.S. women’s volleyball team, the 2014 World champion, will get its next shot at qualifying for Rio at a North American tournament in January.
MORE: Brazil leaves beach volleyball legends off Olympic team