Cayman’s roster has yet to be set but a veteran player feels confident in local chances at a Olympic qualifier.
Shervin Rankin, 38, feels Cayman can succeed at the North American, Central American and Caribbean volleyball federation Continental Cup. The beach volleyball competition is the first round of 2012 Olympic qualification and takes place on Public Beach 2-4 December.
“Cayman can definitely qualify,” Rankin said. “The chances are very possible. I don’t want to sound overly confident or cocky. But based on the level of play and who has the experience, we should be one of the favourites to advance.”
Heading into this week the roster saw seven players representing Cayman. The men’s side features Rankin along with fellow stalwart Olney ‘OT’ Thompson, budding prodigy Richard Campbell and relative newcomer Philippe Deslandes. The women have Jennifer ‘JB’ Bily, Cristin Alexander and Stefania Gandolfi.
A total of 40 teams are expected to take part, matching the record amount of squads that were here for the 2011 edition of the NORCECA beach volleyball tournament back in March. The previous NORCECA mark was 32 sides. Cayman has attracted 17 teams in its first year in 2009 and 24 sides last year.
In all 11 Caribbean countries will be here this weekend in Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago. Rankin sees a number of contenders from that group.
“The road to the 2012 Olympics gets paved here. Jamaica has been very strong the last three years, since they got on the beach scene. They got some big guys as blockers and they have gone on the NORCECA circuit the last few years. Bahamas is supposed to be strong and Trinidad has guys on the world tour so they should be a real force.
“It’s all about paving the road for the next Olympics and we’ll see how things go. Cayman, Bahamas, Trinidad and Barbados or Jamaica should be the ones to advance.”
The schedule for the Olympic qualifier will be decided the week of the competition. The top four teams from the tournament advance to the next stage of Olympic qualifying next year, which Cayman could host once again.
The Olympic qualifier sees action on three courts 9am-10pm on Friday and Saturday, 2-3 December, with two courts in play 9am-6pm on Sunday, 4 December. Admission for all three days is free.
Based on recent performances, the odds would appear to be stacked against Cayman. In March’s NORCECA event none of the Cayman teams advanced deep in the competition, which saw Canada defeat Puerto Rico in the men’s segment while the US defeated Mexico in the women’s section.
Tournament organiser and Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation member Fareed Hosein admits the competition favourite may be a close Caribbean neighbour.
“Some of the teams have come in the past,” Hosein said. “Jamaica stands out. They have volleyball established very well over there. They have progressed and they have lots of talented players.”
A number of public entities are stepping up as sponsors for this weekend including The Department of Tourism, the Ministry of Sports, the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee, Cayman Airways, caycompass.com, Corona, Z99.9FM and Vibe 98.9FM.
The Cayman volleyball federation is making a special appeal for volunteers. Anyone interested in assisting can e-mail [email protected] or visit civf.ky