Focus on beach aces

Volleyball takes centre stage on Cayman’s sporting scene this weekend with one of the biggest tournaments the sport has ever held here.

Beach volleyball has an image of being a fun, knockabout pastime but world class athletes are already here and competition will be intense from tomorrow on Public Beach.

The tournament kicks off the route to Olympic qualification with the North America, Central America and Caribbean (NORCECA) Beach Circuit Volleyball Tournament.

‘We are extremely privileged to host the first leg of the 2009 tour which includes Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Puerto Vallarta, Pachuca, Veracruz (Mexico), Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Toronto, Nicaragua and Barbados,’ said Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation President Noel Williams.

The tournament will last from Friday until Sunday and will feature up to 32 men’s and women’s teams, including teams from Cayman.

Olney Thompson and Shervin Rankin will represent Cayman’s men’s team and Wanda Brenton and Jennifer Bily the women’s. There could be other Cayman teams. All matches will be played on Public Beach.

The Minster of Sport Alden McLaughlin said: ‘The Ministry of Sports is delighted to lend our support to an international sporting event of this calibre.

‘We hope that having the opportunity to watch teams of skilled male and female players competing at this level will encourage more of our youth to take up the sport and become volleyball players.

‘We have a wonderful climate and a great environment for sports to be conducted in.’

McLaughlin added that this event is a tremendous boost for sports tourism and serves as an inspiration for youngsters to get more involved in top level sport.

Donald McLean, President of the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee, said: ‘I’m delighted to be involved in this event. Volleyball is actually one of the founding sports of our Olympics Committee in 1975. It’s also one of the sports I think we can excel in and compete in regional games.

The event is sponsored by the Ministry of Sports, FirstCaribbean Bank, the Olympic Committee, Artista Salon, Tower Marketing, Comfort Suites, Gatorate, the Caymanian Compass, Celebrations, Calico Jack’s, Digital Designs, The Wharf, Progressive Distributors, Jacques Scott, Z99, The Red Cross, K tone and FIVB. It promises to be a huge success and admission is free to the public.

Managing Director at FirstCaribbean International Bank Tom Crawford said: ‘We are pleased to be one of the major sponsors of this event. It will be nice to see such an internationally accredited competition take place on the spectacular beaches of Cayman.’

To announce the launch of this event, Cristobal Marte Hoffiz, President of the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation attended a press conference last week.

Marte has good reason to promote volleyball as both the men’s and women’s teams from the NORCECA region won gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.

Marte is from the Dominican Republic. He made an extensive presentation on how strong volleyball is in the Caribbean and also congratulated Dalton Watler, Director of Sports for wearing a tie depicting volleyball images.

Marte is excited that there will be plenty of internet broadcasting of this event as well as TV.

‘The broadcasters are seeing the extra potential of using the internet. The world – 229 countries – will have their eyes on the Cayman Islands. This is the first tournament on the road to the Olympic Games. I’m proud of that.’

Carl Brenton, Wanda’s husband, is Cayman’s Director of Beach Volleyball. ‘Wanda and I are very excited,’ he said. ‘We’ve put a lot of work into beach volleyball and an international tournament is coming to fruition.

‘We’re expecting a couple of thousand people on the beach and on the Sunday for the finals it will be packed.’

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