Olympic journey gets local start

The path to the Olympics is a momentous one and the Cayman Islands have the distinction of staging the first step of that journey.

Grand Cayman’s Public Beach will be the site of 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 2-4 December.

Organizing the event is the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation. Board member Carl Brown states the decision to host the event came from NORCECA officials.

“We were in a formative frame of mind getting plans sorted for Cayman Airways Spikefest 2011 and NORCECA Cayman 2012 next March,” Brown said. “Then a clarion call came from NORCECA President Cristobol Hoffiz asking if Cayman can host a second NORCECA tournament this year, this time an Olympic qualifier.

“In accepting the late challenge to host, we must thank NORCECA for valuing the Cayman Islands enough to include us on the annual calendar and taking a chance on having Cayman host the first leg of Olympic qualification.

“We’re able to host this event because of a successful partnership of government and sponsors catching a vision, seizing the moment to stoke national pride. We can’t thank our sponsors enough. You walked with us from drawing board to great execution, especially over the last three years.”

Cayman will host 11 Caribbean countries this weekend in Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago. A total of 40 teams are expected to take part, matching the record amount of squads that were here for the March NORCECA tournament. The previous high mark was 32 sides. Cayman has attracted 17 teams in its first year in 2009 and 24 sides last year.

The Cayman roster will be officially set this week and so far there are seven players. The men’s side features Shervin Rankin teaming up with Richard Campbell while Olney ‘OT’ Thompson pairs with 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.

A special guest will be here in Sinjin Smith, who is in the volleyball and University of California Los Angeles Hall of Fame. Smith along with Randy Stoklos – who was in Cayman assisting with preparing teams for the March games – are celebrated as the greatest tandem in beach volleyball history.

Brown states Smith’s presence will be cherished.

“Our volleyball federation is a circle of tireless workers. Our league organisers, volunteers, players, specialist help, board members, all work tirelessly to get us where we are today. The games are going to be good.

“We will see and touch players destined for world greatness, come London 2012. We have a venue London would love to have. We are also welcoming world famous Sinjin Smith, the legend.

“Smith is a member of the FIVB (International Volleyball Federation) Beach Volleyball Commission presiding over the sport in 219 member countries including the Olympic and international games. He has served as President of the FIVB Beach Volleyball Beach Council. Smith and Stoklos are credited with affixing to Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach “the best beach volleyball venue in the world.”

The schedule for the Olympic qualifier will be decided on Thursday, 1 December. 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.

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

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