World champions Poland booked their place in the men's competition at Rio 2016 after earning a fifth straight victory at the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) World Olympic Qualification Tournament at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
Poland, the 1976 Olympic champions, headed into the contest with Venezuela as the overwhelming favourites with their opponents having been beaten in their opening four ties to lie bottom of the group.
Poland looked to be easing towards the opening set after opening up a 20-15 lead, but their South American opponents closed the gap to within one point.
The Polish team, led by their captain Michal Kubiak, restored control to eventually claim the set 25-21.
After the scare, Poland took full control of the contest and claimed the remaining sets 25-17, 25-18, maintaining their unbeaten record at the tournament.
The result ensured the Polish team of finishing in the three qualifying positions at the close of the tournament, regardless of the outcome of their final two matches, with China and Canada unable to catch them.
China’s hopes of earning a qualifying berth took a blow after they were beaten by Iran in a thrilling five set encounter.
The Chinese team twice came from a set down in the contest but were beaten in the deciding set, Iran emerging 26–24, 22–25, 25–19, 17–25, 18–16 winners.
Iran’s victory saw them maintain third place in the standings, with their team boasting an identical record to France, as both countries have won four and lost one of their matches.
France had recorded a 25-7, 25-17, 25-16 win over Canada earlier in the day to occupy a qualifying position.
Australia kept their faint hopes alive, defeating hosts Japan 25-23, 25-19, 29-27, but now face the tough challenge of overcoming China after the rest day, before concluding their fixtures by taking on Poland.
France and Venezuela are set to clash on Saturday (June 4), with Poland due to meet Iran and Japan taking on Canada.
The top three nations at the end of the tournament will all qualify for Rio 2016 - as well as the best Asian country regardless of where they finish.
If the Asian qualifier finish in the top three, the fourth placed country will advance.
The second and final men’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament is scheduled to begin tomorrow at the Gimnasio Olimpico Juan de la Barrera in Mexico City.
The host country will face the challenge of Algeria, Chile and Tunisia in their bid to reach the men’s volleyball tournament at the Olympics for the first time since they hosted the Olympics in 1968.
One spot will be on offer in the four-team competition, due to draw to a close on Sunday (June 5).