As a member of Canada’s men’s volleyball team, Lucas Van Berkel, 29, experienced his first Olympic Games in Tokyo this year. Van Berkel grew up in Edmonton, Alta., and West End Christian Reformed Church is his home congregation. He currently lives in Europe with his wife and baby son while playing volleyball professionally in Germany.
Van Berkel’s dream of playing in the Olympics began when he was recruited by Trinity Western University from Edmonton Christian High School’s volleyball team. Trinity Western won two national championships while Van Berkel played there. He went on to play in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Italy, Turkey, and Germany. Making the Olympic team of only 12 players was highly competitive. The final cut, and the FaceTime call informing Van Berkel that he had been chosen, took place only two weeks before the team left for Japan.
“Being at the Tokyo Olympics is a dream come true,” said Van Berkel, contacted last week in Japan. “It is the one sporting achievement that I wanted to desperately accomplish, and I have worked endlessly towards this moment.” While he said at the time that the dream also extended to “bringing a medal home for Canada,” that was not meant to be. Team Canada lost in the quarter finals to the men’s volleyball team of the Russian Olympic Committee on Aug. 2. “I am so thankful for the support my family and friends have given to me throughout this whole process and blessed that God has gifted me this opportunity,” Van Berkel said.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel and attendance restrictions made it impossible for Van Berkel’s parents to travel to Tokyo to support and cheer their son,“but staying home has been phenomenal,” said his mother, Jo. “The support we have received from family, friends, acquaintances, and our church community has been outstanding. It has truly been a blessing to see how much love and joy is being shared by watching Lucas play. Our hearts are full of thankfulness and celebration.” Family and friends joined the Van Berkels in their backyard to watch one of the volleyball games. Canada lost to Poland that day and went on to be defeated by the Russian Olympic Committee.