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T&T beach volleyball duo, Daynte Stewart and Marlon Phillip

Daymian Stewart, chairman of the T&T Volleyball Federation Beach Commission says the one-year postponement of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Beach Volleyball World Championship to June 2022 can turn out to be positive for this country.

Stewart, the delegate vice-president of the T&TVF was commenting on the decision by FIVB to delay of the staging of the event which was originally programmed for June 2021, in Rome, Italy.

The change made by the FIVB came following the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games for one year due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

In a release on the NORCECA website, confederation president, Cristobal Marte Hoffiz informed that the re-scheduling of the FIVB World Championship necessarily affects the confederation’s date limit to accumulate points as it will have an impact on its qualification system and points granted.

Marte Hoffiz noted that according to the 2019 NORCECA rankings the top-8 men’s teams are USA, Nicaragua, Canada, México, Guatemala, Cuba, T&T and Puerto Rico while for the women the top-8 women are USA, Canada, Cuba, Nicaragua, México, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica.

“And based on the qualification format of the World Championship, NORCECA has six vacancies in the “main draw” and four other teams have the option of playing in the qualifying phase and to qualify the NORCECA rankings to be considered will be that up to December 31, 2021, so teams will have up until that time to boost their rankings, ” said Marte Hoffiz.

Commenting on the delay of the World Championships on Thursday, Stewart said, “This will no doubt work in our favour as it will provide our teams with the chance to climb up the NORCECA rankings.

As part of the process to gain ranking points for the FIVB World Championship the T&T teams are expected to compete on the NORCECA Beach Tour, which has also been affected by the coronavirus pandemic with the first three legs being cancelled or postponed already, inclusive of Aguascalientes in Mexico (April 16-19), Varadero in Cuba (April 30-May 4) and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic (May 6-11).

The other legs yet to come off includes Nicaragua (May 20-25), La Paz, Mexico (May 28-31), St Kitts (June 19-22), Aguascalientes in Mexico (July 9-13), Punta Cana (August 13-17), and two events in the Dominican Republic (October 1-5) and November (5-9).

Last month it was also stated that due to a lack of funding from NORCECA the Beach Tour stops in the Cayman Islands (September 24-28) and Jamaica (November 12-16) were expected to be cancelled altogether.

However, those two events along with one in Bonaire, which hosted for the first time last year may return to the calendar and Stewart admitted that the local teams were expected to have a busy beach schedule for the year.

Apart from the NORCECA Tour legs the Beach Volleyball Inter-Zonal Continental Cup in Nicaragua, a semifinal round qualifier to the NORCECA Final Round Olympic Games carded for March 19-23 was also postponed and tentatively rescheduled to August.

“This will for the least provide us with the chance to strengthen our teams if we choose too, should the qualifiers come off in the next three months,” said Stewart.

“We were preparing Rheeza Grant, La Teisha Joseph, Abby Blackman and Apphia Glasgow for the women’s team.

“But, now we will also have the option of experienced player Malika Davidson who is coming off of injury as well as Saraya Chase while we are also hopeful of getting Phylecia Armstrong back into the fold,” added Stewart

Stewart pointed out that the men’s team will also benefit due to the inclusion of some key players in the pool for selection, who otherwise would not have been available.

“We previously selected the quartet of Daneil Williams and Joel Theodore along with the in-experienced duo of Stephen Enile and Kurt Edwards to compete, but due to the postponement of the Inter-Zonal qualifiers, we will now have the options of Daynte Stewart and Marlon Phillip, who were both unavailable along with the former top player and NORCECA Tour medal winner, Fabien Whitfield. Stewart added, “Whitfield will be available to us as his four-year ban from FIVB should come to an end on May 22, and we are delighted to have him as an option, because he was once part of a very formidable duo with Williams, and we know what they are capable of doing.”

For the qualifiers in Nicaragua, the T&T men will compete with US Virgin Islands, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Guatemala and the host country from which three teams will qualify to the NORCECA final round where they will meet Cuba, Mexico and one Canadian team for the lone spot available to the Olympics.

In the women’s segment, T&T, US Virgin Islands, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Costa Rica and the host country are the competing nations from which four teams will qualify to the NORCECA final round where they will meet Cuba and, Mexico.

Already, Canada and USA have qualified two women teams to the Olympics while the USA has earned two men’s tickets and Canada one.