Big Billy’s trip to Winnipeg

By Kris Kotarski

Bill Byma is in Winnipeg and he’s not too happy about it.

"Winnipeg blows ass," said the former University of Calgary volleyball star. "It’s so hot here and the mosquitoes are killing me."

Byma is in Winnipeg with the Canadian National Team but while his game is better than ever, his health is not. Byma missed a month-and-a-half of training due to a bout with mono which probably explains his surly demeanour.

"I missed so much training I didn’t really have an opportunity to fight for my spot when I returned," said Byma. "I also lost 18 pounds. And I wasn’t too huge to begin with."

While Byma has been on the sidelines for much of Canada’s international competitions this summer, he will get a chance to strut his stuff at the World University Games in Beijing this August and later at America’s Cup in Argentina where Canada hopes a solid showing will prepare them for World Championship qualifiers next year.

"When you play internationally you get some guys who can jump right out of the gym," smiled Byma when asked how the level of competition compares to his five seasons with the Dinos. "The top guys hit the ball higher, harder and smarter."

Byma handled himself very well in his first taste of international action this season when Canada faced off with Team Ukraine earlier this summer. While Byma drew praise from national team coaches, the sudden bout with mono hurt his chances of gaining substantial playing time.

"I guess it wasn’t my year to shine," reflected Byma. "But I had a chance to come home to Calgary so it’s OK."

After the America’s Cup in September, Byma will join the Lucerne University Club in Switzerland where he signed a contract to play professionally from October until April with fellow Canadian Dan Lewis. Lewis played for the University of Manitoba Bisons last season, and Byma looks forward to being on the same team as the six-foot-three power hitter who helped defeat the Dinos three times last year.

"It’ll be a lot of fun," said Byma. "I was talking to teams in Germany, Austria and Spain but I thought Switzerland was a good choice. In Switzerland, we’ll get a chance to really show off our skills."

And as for the language barrier living abroad, "I took some French immersion before, so I should be alright," he added. "As for German, I know Häagen Daas and that’s about it."

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