They’ve never had it so good!

It was bigger and better than last
year and the next time volleyball will be an even more tremendous smash.

That looks inevitable considering
how well staged the North, Central and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation
tournament was on Public Beach last weekend.

Canadians Martin Reader and Ray
Sewell beat the Puerto Ricans in the men’s final and the Puerto Rican girls
Yarleen Santiago and Dariam Acevedo beat the Americans.

Cayman’s teams were Shervin Rankin
and Olney ‘OT’ Thompson and the other men’s pair of Andrew Gordon and Duncan Hamann.
Cayman women were Jennifer Bily and Wanda Brenton and the second team was
Cristin Alexander and Tarasa Barnett.

Kudos to Cayman’s volleyball
president Noel Williams, beach volleyball president Carl Brenton and the army
of volunteers and officials, especially Michelle ‘Shorty’ Carter and Fareed
Hosein.

The Canadian men prepared better
than any other team, which evidently gave them the edge. They came a week
before the tournament started and did everything according to the book; rest,
diet, stretching, practice and strategy.

After gaining the gold medal Reader
said: “The organisers here have been amazing. They embraced us, took us in, fed
us, housed us, set up training for us and training on the beach with the local
guys was a great experience as well.”

There’s a saying in sport that if
you fail to prepare then you prepare to fail. The Canadians obviously took
heed.

Sewell added: “As a tourist I had
some unique experiences, going to the turtle farm, the dolphins and Stingray
City and I would recommend them to anybody back home. Your white beach is
fantastic and the people are so friendly and accepting.

“The organisation here is amazing.
It’s the best I’ve been to. We got here before all this was set up and Carl and
the others did a great job setting up. We had food, warm up area, shade…
everything. It’s amazing.

“Coming here early was a wise move.
We’ve been training with our coach in Toronto indoors because it’s too cold to
train outside. So we had to come early to get used to the sun, wind and heat.
If we had come and prepared for only one or two days, I don’t think we would have
won.”

Reader said: “There’s now a
tradition that the winners of last year’s event has to come in early, a week,
so we’ll have to keep that up.”

Sewell retorted: “A week minimum,
it might have to be a month!”

As for Cayman’s chances of getting
on the World Tour, Reader thinks the chances are good. “You can never say
never. It’s difficult. All of these island countries are developing their beach
volleyball, so it’s all about exposure and playing lots of international games.
Cayman teams have to get off the island and play in bigger events.

“This is certainly great beginnings
and its important now to create a junior programme.”

Noel Williams said: “With a few
months of training you will see how far the Cayman teams will go. Cristin and
Tarasa are very inexperienced, but given time I think they will do great things
for Cayman.

“Our people and beaches make the
difference. They have these tournaments up in mountains and man-made beaches
but we’re right on the natural, white sandy beach beside the sea.

“You can’t ask for better than that
and this just gives me more encouragement and go and bid for the World Tour. We
can do bigger and better things.”

Sports Minister Mark Scotland was
accompanied by Premier McKeeva Bush and other politicians at the finals.

Scotland said: “This event is
fantastic. There are well over 1,000 people here and the mix is great with
Caymanians and residents.

“You’ve heard all the competitors
say that this is the best event they’ve been to. I’m also glad to hear that
Noel Williams said that we have this event for the next couple of years.

“The benefits to the Islands are
immeasurable. The mixture of beaches and our people makes it so successful.
Noel has also done a tremendous job in his presidency. The level of
organisation is flawless. Everyone has said it has been spectacular.”

Thankfully, the top NORCECA rep at
the event, Arnaldo Sanchez, felt the same way.

He said: “All I can say is that
Cayman has improved 100 per cent. This has been a grand opening for the beach
volleyball season for NORCECA.

“We’re very pleased with the
staging of this tournament. You have a great person in Noel Williams who has
done great things for Cayman Islands volleyball.”

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