WHEN TRINIDAD and Tobago stage the first round of Olympic Games qualifying for Men’s Beach Volleyball in early May, officials will expect nothing less than victory from the national teams. The May 8-10 tournament, to be played at Saith Park in Chaguanas among 12 countries including hosts TT, is the first of four qualification stages on the road to Rio 2016.

The TT women will start a similar journey, one week earlier, in Jamaica. Introducing both the national Men’s and Women’s teams at Olympic House yesterday, Daymian Stewart, head of the TT Volleyball Federation (TTVF) expressed satisfaction with the planning and preparation for the event.

“We believe the work that has been done over the last few years in Beach Volleyball has created a real opportunity for us to be the first local team sport to qualify for the Olympic Games,” Stewart said. “From where I sit, I think I’m in a position to guarantee, and put some pressure on our national athletes, that we will definitely be in the fourth round of the Olympic qualifications.”

In simplifying the progression, Stewart explained that following the first round, the second stage will involve teams from the Eastern Caribbean, after which TT would come up against the Central American nations, until finally they would have to face the top playing countries in the Western Hemisphere in the fourth and final phase. He noted, however, that should TT get to the final round, they would avoid at least one of the sport’s giants, as the United States would have qualified through the World Beach Volleyball Tour.

Stating the TTVF had learned much from previous experiences, Stewart said it had now put together a combination of good athletes, technical capabilities, facilities, technology and administrative support.

“We can now say that we went through this before,” he told reporters at Olympic House. “We had a world-class indoor team trying to qualify for the World Championships, and we know where we went wrong, and the things that we need to correct. So this time around, we need to get it right.”

Vice president of the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA), Mushtaque Mohammed confirmed the tournament will receive assistance from both the regional and world governing bodies. “The IVF, the Caribbean VF and NORCECA will be supporting these events from a financial perspective,” said the former TTVF head. “We will be giving all the equipment that is necessary for the event.”

Mohammed will also be heading the tournament’s control committee.

TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis, in calling on the public to come out in their numbers and make the event a success, added that the tournament presents “an opportunity for the Volleyball Federation to leverage a format of the game that is suited to Trinidad and Tobago.” He noted that following the Beijing Games in 2008, experts found that Beach Volleyball was the most watched event after Track and Field’s 100 metres.

The women’s first round will be run off between April 30 and May 4 in Jamaica. La Teisha Joseph and Apphia Glasgow will make up one team, while the other will consist of Elki Phillip and Shenelle Gordon. Playing for the TT men at Saith Park will be Fabian Whitfield and Daniel Williams; and Tevin Joseph and Josiah Eccles.

The other participating national teams are Aruba, Barbados, the Bahamas, Bonaire, the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique and Suriname. A number of activities have been included for the fans, including a nightly skills segment for cash prizes. Additionally, competition on each night will be preceded at 6 pm by a women’s exhibition match.