Foreign stars grace Public Beach

March is synonymous with world class beach volleyball action in the Cayman Islands. 

This year is no different with the next instalment of the North, Central America and Caribbean Confederation tour opener. Some 43 squads representing 16 countries will storm Grand Cayman’s Public Beach on 23-25 March. 

Overseeing the festivities is the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation. Tournament director Fareed Hosein states the governing body is ready to host the foreign competitors once again. 

“The federation is pleased to host the NORCECA tour again for 2012,” Hosein said. “Our past successes has resulted in NORCECA requesting our Island to initiate and host the 2012 tour. Sinjin Smith will once again represent the International Volleyball Federation and will assess our capabilities to host a world championship event in the future.  

“I would like the thank our sponsors, organizers and volunteers for making this all possible.” 

Athletes are slated to be arriving here from next Wednesday, 21 March. Next Thursday, 22 March, is expected to be a training day with matches getting under way on Friday. Each day is expected to see action from about 9am until roughly 10pm with free admission to the public. 

Eight players will be representing Cayman in Andrew Gordon and Olney Thompson, Richard Campbell and Shervin Rankin, Duncan Hamann and Philippe Deslandes with Cristin Alexander and Jennifer Bily being the lone female tandem. 

Cayman has hosted the NORCECA series opener the last four years. In 2011 a record 40 teams stormed these shores, eight better than the previous NORCECA mark. Every edition has seen more squads take part as Cayman attracted 17 squads in its first year in 2009 and 24 sides in 2010. A number of powerhouse countries have competed here including the US, Canada and Mexico. The event has become a staple of the Cayman sports scene. 

Federation board member and public relations officer Carl Brown states Cayman is in a favourable position. 

“The NORCECA event will be a showcase of 43 teams as 16 countries are lined up to attend,” Brown said. “That’s already an increase and register of confidence in Cayman beach volleyball. That helps us to build a strong venue for an international event.” 

News of the NORCECA opener comes after a number of happenings in the sport this year. Cayman’s national teams, consisting of Cristin Alexander, Jennifer Bily, Taylor Burrowes, Richard Campbell, Philippe Deslandes, Stefania Gandolfi, Shervin Rankin and Olney Thompson, started 2012 by playing in the NORCECA Continental Cup semi-finals.  

From there noted regional instructor Juan Cartagena held a youth clinic here. Cayman was named the best host country of beach volleyball over the past two years.  

Federation president Noel Williams states many international spikers have expressed a desire to play here.  

“We have really worked very hard to be the best we can be with what we have,” Williams said. “The athletes, our sponsoring community, which includes the government, the many locals and residents who come out to cheer, our beautiful location and legendary Cayman hospitality have made our visiting athletes and officials so happy that Cayman is regarded as a treasured host.” 

The 2012 NORCECA tour opener has a number of local sponsors including the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, Cayman Airways, CIBC First Caribbean International Bank and 

norceca 2012 preview

Countries like the US and Canada will be in action here next weekend. – PHOTOS: MATTHEW YATES