Russell Holmes, Middle Blocker for the Men’s USA Volleyball team, is one of the nicest guys you can meet.   There is a reason for that, he’s a Mormon.

   Russell’s bio tells about his origins. Born and raised in Orange County, Calif., where the U.S. national teams now train, Holmes grew up as a soccer player. As a 6-foot-8 high school junior in volleyball-mad southern California, he was urged by friends to try the sport. Soon thereafter, Holmes realized he could have more of a future in volleyball, so he dropped soccer, but his first sport has helped with his coordination and footwork in volleyball.

   Russell and I went to High School together and hes is an old friend, so I was able to convince him to take some time out from his hectic competition schedule to have a chat with me.

   When did you find out you qualified for the Olympic Team? What was the first thought you had?

That’s a Clown Question Bro

“Our team qualified for the Olympics in May 2012 after we had won Gold in the NORCECA Olympic Qualifier tournament in Long Beach. Going to the Olympics was my ultimate goal since I started competing with the national team in 2009. A sense of relief and overwhelming joy came over me to have finally achieved something I had been working so hard for for so long.”

   You served your mission in the London England Mission. Is this your first time back? How does it feel to compete in a land you spent 2 years serving in?

“This is not my first time back to London but it is an amazing feeling to be returning again to my old stomping grounds in such a way. It has made a city and a people that are already so dear to my heart that much more special.” 

   I’ve already told you about all the support you are getting back home. Have there been any words of encouragement that have meant a lot to you from a fan during this time?

“There has definitely been an overwhelming feeling of support from family friends and fans from back home. Every individual that has reached out to me in love and support in one form or another has meant so much to me. All these extended words of encouragement are only fueling me to want to perform at my best. So I want to say thank you to everyone for being behind me in this special experience.”

   We hear stories in the media about some of the illicit actives in the Olympic Village. How do you keep yourself unspotted from these influences?

“Personally I haven’t heard or read much about these rumors. I guess that’s just it though. I’ve ignored and chose not to affiliate myself with such things. It has been that simple. Just like any member of the church or follower of Christ does to keep themselves unspotted from the world by living the gospel, so it is with staying unspotted from these types of influences within the Olympic Village.”

   Have you gotten to see any other events while at the Olympics? Have you made any new friends? Is Michael Phelps really a jerk? (You don’t have to answer that last one :D)

“I haven’t had the opportunity to catch any other events. The thing with a sport like ours is that the competition lasts the whole two weeks of the games. So there really isn’t time to go see other events. When we are not preparing and competing on game day we spend our time resting and with family which is also very limited.

The cool thing about staying in the village though is that you do get to rub shoulders with other elite athletes. I haven’t necessarily made huge friends with any new athletes but I have had great experiences talking to many of them. There is a great feeling of sportsmanship as everyone exchanges words of praise and good fortune to one another in passing.”

   You have played professional Volleyball all over the world. Have any of your old teammates come to compete from other countries? If so, what is it like being on the other side of the net from them?

“For me I enjoy competing against old teammates and friends that I have played with overseas. In fact we play Italy in the quarterfinals coming up tomorrow and I am good friends with Italy’s opposite spiker.  I also currently have teammates in Poland. I am always heavily motivated to win such matches because one always enjoys the bragging rights. But this time it is for something much more meaningful and that is the Gold medal. Right now my friend and his Italian team stand in the way of that. So it is only necessary to remove them.” 

   Russell we wish you the best of luck in London.  If you want to keep up with Russell you can follow his journey here.  His next game is Wednesday August 8th and you wont want to miss it!