Every athlete dreams of competing in the Olympics and how fitting that volleyball’s route to that particular Holy Grail began in Grand Cayman over the weekend.
The search for Olympic qualification commenced at the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation Beach Circuit tournament on Public Beach.
Olney ‘OT’ Thompson and Shervin Rankin were the men’s representatives, while Jennifer Bily and Wanda Brenton represented the Cayman women.
Total novices in this competition, they nevertheless did very well watched by a sizeable crowd that included politicians Kurt Tibbetts, Alden McLaughlin, Alfonso Wright and Noel Williams, the president of the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation and Arnaldo Sanchez, the tournament director and NORCECA rep from Puerto Rico.
Brenton said: ‘A lot of the other girls have a lot of experience. They do many tournaments all over the States and the Caribbean. This was our first, so we’re happy with our performances.
‘We beat Costa Rica, Jamaica and USA II and lost to USA I twice. It was a great experience for us and we’re really thrilled to have represented Cayman.
‘Now we’re going to regroup, train some more and go for another tournament.’
Thompson said: ‘We were number two in our pool which was good. We beat Guatemala and USA II, which is big for us and lost to Cuba and USA I. Beating the US was big for us. Fantastic. These are selected players from their top circuit.
‘We’re actually gearing up for the Caribbean Games in July. The next qualifying tournament is in Guatemala, then we’ll do Dominican Republic and Mexico, then Jamaica and Trinidad. There are a lot of legs still left so we can still qualify for the Olympics.’
Rankin said: ‘The most we got out of this was the experience. We saw what we were lacking and what we need to improve on. If we reach a higher level of consistency we should be able to compete with all these guys, hopefully within six months or so.
‘We’ve definitely learned a lot just by watching the teams.’
Williams said: ‘I’m very impressed with our teams. The crowd here is amazing. You would have to be here to know what it’s all about. I haven’t seen a crowd like this here for a long time. I’m so excited. No one can believe that this is the Cayman Islands, they think it’s some big event.
‘I’m glad that Cayman has hosted it and proud that the Leader of Business (Tibbetts) has come down.
‘The visiting players are saying that this is the best tournament they’ve ever been to. Best organised, location, beaches, people… everything. I’m really glad for that.’
Minister of Sport Alden McLaughlin said: ‘This is excellent. I expect tomorrow there’ll be an even bigger crowd for the finals.
‘Overall it was a pretty impressive showing by the Cayman teams.
‘I’m really pleased to have supported this tournament. From the time I came to office I insisted that in order to build a profile of the Cayman Islands we’ve got to do so as a destination for sports.