Cayman’s top volleyball pair of Shervin Rankin and Olney ‘OT’ Thompson have qualified for the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico in October, the first time since 2002 that a local team has done so.
They achieved it in Chiapas, Mexico last week in a NORCECA competition, ending up third behind Canada and Dominica Republic and ahead of Mexico in their group.
Thompson, 43, and Rankin, 38, beat a strong Mexican pair 2-1 in one match and had game point on the favourites Canada twice but just failed to beat them.
That goes to show that despite the Cayman pair’s ages having played together for 20 years is proving invaluable against younger, more agile but less experienced sides.
“Canada got lucky with a serve on the net which rolled on our side,” Thompson said.
“Our objective in Chipasas was just to finish ahead of Trinidad and Tobago. We did that and surprised ourselves by beating Mexico who had beaten Dominican Republic 2-0. We lost to Dominican Republic 2-0 so it goes to show how much we’ve improved.
“This is really big for Cayman considering how long it is since we got to the Pan Am Games. The competition is much harder now and to actually get a spot is really pleasing. Don’t forget we don’t get any full-time coaching and all the other teams are full-time players.
“The Olympics is coming next year and it’s really exciting. We will be pushing fully to get there too. All we need now is the resources to do so.”
Both players are self-employed businessmen so it will be financially difficult for them to devote all their time to volleyball. But that is a necessity to fulfil their potential at the Pan Am Games and to reach the London Olympics.
Thompson added: “Considering we’re putting Cayman on the global map, we deserve to get the support from the government and the Olympic Committee to achieve our best possible placing.”
The pair’s progress comes after Cayman successfully staged only its third NORCECA tournament at Public Beach in March. The buzz has gone round that Cayman’s organisational skills, courts, crowds, friendliness and general infrastructure is way above other venues and everyone wants to return.