Updated: May 17, 2014 at 8:24 pm
David Lee will never forget a certain summer's day in Beijing.
He and Team USA had just defeated Brazil 3-1 in the gold-medal match at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, giving the United States its first men's volleyball Olympic title since 1988. Even now, nearly six years later, Lee has vivid memories from the amazing experience.
"Standing on the podium, looking into the stands and seeing my family, seeing my mom and dad weep, that was the best moment," said Lee, a 6-foot-8 middle blocker. "Seeing our flag rise, hearing our national anthem being played and looking at the gold medal and the accomplishment that came along with it by far were my best memories."
Lee's gold medal resides in a shadow box along with his jersey at his parents' house, a constant reminder of a magical time that seems unreal to the former Long Beach State standout.
"It was surreal for a while, and it still is, honestly," said Lee, who also represented the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympic Games. "It was unbelievable for the first little bit, and after we won, I was in shock because of the emotional investment of the Olympics and how physically drained I was. To have that be your first time and to win, that was pretty special.
"That's why I'm here now, to try and come back and do it again."
Two of Lee's teammates at this weekend's FIVB World Championship NORCECA Qualifying Tournament at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center, Sean Rooney and Reid Priddy, know exactly how it feels.
"It was really special for us," said Rooney, a three-time Olympian. "Five-and-a-half years have gone by really fast, I can't believe it. We're using that (experience) and getting together with some young bucks, and our goal is to do it again."
Being back at the OTC stirs fond memories for the tall trio, for it was in those confines that they first began working toward the 2008 Olympics.
"We have a lot of nostalgia just from being here at the OTC," said Rooney, a 6-10 outside hitter who starred at Pepperdine. "This is where we all started our national team career with the senior team, so coming back makes us remember the time when we first started training together."
The team has motivation from a disappointing fifth-place finish in London two summers ago that will fuel its fire going forward. As with all Olympic teams, their formation is a long process that takes many twists and turns along the way.
This weekend's world championship qualifier is one such step toward potential spots on the U.S. team for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
"This is an opportunity for a lot of guys to play, and we've had a lot of guys playing for the first time with the national team," said the 6-4 Priddy, an outside hitter who played at Loyola Marymount. "It's important these first couple summers to figure things out so the coaches can foresee who's going to be part of that (Olympic) group."
Priddy, a two-time Olympian, is confident about the status of USA Volleyball.
"We've got a gym full of really talented players," he said. "We're trying to write a new story, and I like the trajectory we're headed."