As the Cayman Islands continue to rise in beach volleyball, one man eager to monitor that progress is Sinjin Smith.
Smith, 54, is the International Volleyball Federation World Beach Council President. He was here last month for the fourth staging of the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation tour opener on Grand Cayman’s Public Beach.
The California native states Cayman is an ideal location for major beach volleyball tournaments in the future.
“This was my second time here as I was here last April,” Smith said. “It is a destination to play beach volleyball. It doesn’t get any better than this. All of the amenities, like the hotels, are on the beach plus the beach and sand are great.
“The sponsors will back beach volleyball and the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation wants people to play here. This wouldn’t happen if the federation, government and the sponsors didn’t get onboard. It’s a perfect situation for the sport.
“The logistics are great. Every year is bigger and better and it has more support. It’s a great time for everyone, the players know they are treated extra special. Noel (Williams, the Cayman federation president) has done a great job and goes beyond what is necessary.”
Cayman would attract about 42 teams from some 16 countries. Roberto Rodriguez and Erick Haddock of Puerto Rico along with Mexican ladies Bibiana Candelas and Mayra Garcia went through the tournament undefeated. They earned gold medals along with a US$1,700 cash prize.
Male runners-up Samuel Schachter and Maverick Hatch of Canada and female runners-up Marta Revueltas and Vanessa Virgen of Mexico took home silver and US$1,000. Bronze and a US$750 prize went to Canada’s Joshua Binstock (the 2011 champion) and Martin Reader for the men and Puerto Rico’s Yarleen Santiago and Yamileska Yantin for the women.
Smith, who turns 55 next month, is a beach volleyball legend and part of the international Hall of Fame. He states his journey into the sport came from top players playing on a beach near his home.
“I live in Los Angeles, near the beach, in an area called the Pacific Palisades. I saw some of the best players on the beach growing up. That left a big impression on me and that’s what I wanted to do.
“I’m married with three sons in Hagen (16), Stanton (14) and Sinjin (12). I have them playing all sports. They also do indoor and beach volleyball. That’s what I did as I used to do all sports growing up because I loved sports. They like volleyball, they chose to play it. I exposed them to everything and from there they gravitated towards it.
“You know, I was actually born Christopher St. John Smith. As a child I was called Sinjin, which is an Old English pronunciation and spelling of St. John. Interestingly enough, Sinjin was a character in one of Shakespeare’s plays.”
For the record, Cayman had a good showing as host nation. Shervin Rankin and Richard Campbell advanced to the quarterfinals, after finishing second in Pool A behind Puerto Rico, before losing to the Dominican Republic. The other male tandems of Philippe Deslandes and Duncan Hamann along with Andrew Gordon and Olney Thompson were eliminated during group play. The lady pair of Jennifer Bily and Cristin Alexander were knocked out in the preliminary stages by El Salvador.
Aside from world-class players, a number of international officials were here and enjoyed their sojourn. Three FIVB referees were part of the officiating crew in Americans Dan Apol and Keith Murless plus Puerto Rican Carlos Rivera.
Cayman federation tournament director Fareed Hosein was also part of that crew. He states the competition was beneficial for Cayman and will be a stepping stone for a larger sports tourism portfolio.
“We are very proud at the culmination of our efforts during the past tournament,” Hosein said. “I would like to thank the sponsors, volunteers, Royal Cayman Islands Police and the organizing committee for all their hard work to put on this event.
“The Cayman federation will now be trying to take the significant step forward towards obtaining an FIVB world tour event on Seven Mile Beach and increase the profile of the island in the sports tourism market.”