The anxious waiting is over and volleyball fans can indulge themselves in their favourite sport this weekend with the third staging by the Cayman Islands of the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederationcompetition.
It runs from Friday to Sunday at Public Beach, and every day will be action-packed with a NORCECA record of 40 teams entered in the men’s and women’s games.
Admission is free and such is the congestion to get games in that floodlighting has been introduced to ensure games can be played in the dark.
Cristin Alexander, the current Miss Cayman, who made her international debut in this tournament last year, will be competing again with Jennifer “JB” Bily, Cayman’s most experienced woman in the sport.
Cayman has two men’s teams: seasoned vets Olney “OT” Thompson and Shervin Rankin and Duncan Hamann and Phillippe Deslandes.
Legendary volleyball stars Randy Stoklos and Sinjin Smith have been here this week to coach the Cayman teams. Ana Paula Rodriquez, the two-time Olympian from Brazil, is also here.
So well organised and warmly received is the tournament here that the Cayman Islands has already emerged as one of the top four beach volleyball events the world over.
Besides the many athletes, coaches and officials who come to the island, this tournament attracts plenty of volleyball fans who have heard about the lovely setting and Cayman’s first-class hotels, beaches, restaurants and hospitality.
It always gives the tourism industry a tremendous boost, which is why Premier McKeeva Bush turned up for the finals last year and why Mark Scotland, the minister of sport, visited several times.
Local organisers are extremely excited because FIVB, the world volleyball governing body, has sent representatives to assess the Cayman Islands as a venue for a world championship event.
Noel Williams, president of the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation, said, “We have pulled out every stop to make this NORCECA a brilliant milestone in the history of sport in the Cayman Islands.
The federation, under the direction of NORCECA, has provided yet another opportunity to raise the bar.
“This event is an Olympic qualifier and we will host for the first time more than the 32 teams normally entering a tournament. Many of the best volleyballers in the world will be here.
In addition, we have the very best of the best here to make this event memorable in Singin Smith and Randy Stoklas and Ana Paula Rodriguez from Brazil.
“Our Cayman teams are oiled and ready. Our sponsors will be so proud that they joined us in this venture, the largest international sporting event in Cayman history where all can come without any cost.
“This is another proud moment, a really significant milestone. We have worked hard in short order for this gemstone event on Seven Mile Beach.”
Fareed Hosein, tournament director, said, “The response from the athletes and NORCECA to our tournament has been tremendous, and this year’s event will be bigger and better than the past years.
“This tournament’s importance to sports tourism is significant, and the federation will continue to move forward until a world championship or Olympic qualifying event is held here with the world’s top players competing.”
One player especially looking forward to this tournament is Mark Lewis of Jamaica. He said, “Thank you guys again for pushing the limits and setting higher standards for the best tournament experience.”