T&T men’s beach volleyball team will depart for Guaymas, Mexico today where they will contest the Fourth Round of NORCECA Inter-Continental Men’s Olympic Beach Volleyball qualifiers to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
The quartet of Daneil Williams, Simon Blake, Christian Francois and Colin Bernard will link up with the women’s team of Ayana Dyette, Malika Davidson, Abby Blackman and Rheeza Grant who left yesterday to contest the women’s segment of the qualifiers.
However, while the women’s team will be at full strength, the men’s team will have to do without the services of key player Fabien Whitfield for the June 24-26 qualifiers.
Last month, Whitfield was forced to withdraw from the T&T four-player (two per team) contingent for the third round of the NORCECA Inter-Continental Men’s tournament at Pigeon Point, St Lucia, due to a back injury sustained on the eve of the event, and was replaced by Francois.
This meant that Whitfield’s regular playing partner, Williams paired with Simon Blake, and Colin Bernard teamed up with Francois to help the locals to a sixth placed finish in the 12-team qualifying event to book a spot in Mexico.
The injury to Whitfield was a big blow to T&T as he and Williams enjoyed a very positive start to the season and won a first ever silver medal on the fourth stop of the 2016 NORCECA Beach Volleyball Circuit in Costa Rica two months ago, to add to their three previous bronze medals won on the tour since making their debut in 2008.
Last year when T&T hosted the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Round One qualifiers, Whitfield and Williams and second pair, Tevin Joseph and Josiah Eccles won gold ahead of Jamaica.
This was followed by a runner-up finish in the CAZOVA/Eastern Caribbean Volleyball Association (ECVA) Second Round series held in Antigua & Barbuda in January of this year behind US Virgin Islands where the team comprised Whitfield, Williams, Francois and Blake.
Jamaica took third ahead of fellow qualifiers Curacao and the quartet along with fifth to eighth placed finishers St Lucia, Barbados, St Kitts/Nevis and Suriname will compete against Central America’s qualifiers, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador for qualification spots to the Fourth Round.
In Mexico, T&T women’s team of Ayana Dyette/Malika Davidson and Rheeza Grant/Abby Blackman will also be in contention for a place in the Rio Olympics despite a seventh place finish in the Third Round of NORCECA Women’s Inter-Continental Beach Volleyball Olympic qualifiers in San Salvador, El Salvador in early May.
Initially it was stated that the top six countries at the end of the 12-team qualifying event would earn places to Mexico, however, USA (two), Canada and Mexico have all qualified teams to the Olympics already based on the rankings following the completion of the 18-month Beach Volleyball Olympic Qualification process via the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, making another spot available via NORCECA, which will be taken by T&T.
When the NORCECA Women Olympic qualifiers began last year, Elki Phillip paired with Shenelle Gordon while La Teisha Joseph partnered Apphia Glasgow to earn T&T third spot behind host Jamaica and Cayman Islands in CAZOVA Round One.
But in Round Two last year, which was also staged in Jamaica, Dyette and Davidson, and Glasgow and Joseph led T&T to the gold medal over Barbados while Jamaica and French St Martin were third and fourth respectively to complete the representatives from the CAZOVA/Eastern Caribbean Volleyball Association (ECVA) region where they join Central America Zone teams, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and host El Salvador.
The second and third place finishers from each Confederation will play the World Continental Cup Olympic Qualification tournament in Sochi, Russia on July 6-10 to decide the final two (2) places per gender.