TT boys’ (white) volleyballers defend against Sri Lanka during their game at the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games, at the Courlad Beach Sports Arena, in Black Rock, Tobago, – Photo by David Reid
Trinidad and Tobago scored an early group A victory in the men’s beach volleyball as the the Tobago leg of the Commonwealth Youth Games got off to a smooth start on Saturday at the newly-constructed Courland Beach Sports Arena, Black Rock, Tobago.
The TT team of Miguel Jahreef and Jerome Morrison got off to a winning start defeating Sri Lanka 2-0.
The games, the first of its kind in the Caribbean, began on Friday with a grand opening ceremony in Trinidad at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
More than 1,000 athletes between the ages of 14-18 from over 70 countries are participating in the prestigious tournament. Tobago is hosting four events: beach volleyball, rugby seven, triathlon and netball.
On Saturday, head of the THA-appointed local organising committee George Leacock, other members of the team and volunteers were busy ensuring that all of the logistics were finetuned for the competition.
Assistant Secretary in the THA Division of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport Wane Clarke took in the games from the VIP area, which also included Commonwealth officials.
It follows a week of spats between the Sport Minister, Shamfa Cudjoe, THA sport officials and the Chief Secretary over delays to get the facility ready in time for the opening events.
Hours before the opening ceremony, Cudjoe continued her criticisms of the THA management of the facility, during which a special grade of sand arrived only this week. This followed assurances from THA officials that the facility would be ready, as work continued round-the-clock since Monday, just one day before games began.
Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, on Thursday, opened the arena dismissing the criticisms of government officials.
Under brilliant sunshine, the teams, technical staff and other officials started arriving at the facility as early as 8 am on Saturday. Some of the players began their warm-up sessions soon afterwards.
There was a small turnout of spectators in the stands at the start of the competition but as the day wore on the crowd grew significantly.
One Black Rock woman told Newsday, “I don’t know a thing about volleyball. But this is history in the making and on top of that, it is a free event. So I am here.”
Spectators look on during action at the Commonwealth Youth Games 2023 beach volleyball tournament, on Saturday, at the Courland Beach Sports Arena, Black Rock, Tobago. – David Reid
The opening matches of the women’s duo volleyball, which began shortly after 10 am, saw Kenya beat Bermuda 2-0 in Group A while England claimed victory over Rwanda 2-1 in Group B.
In Group C, Mozambique beat the Cayman Islands 2-1 while Canada beat Scotland 2-0 in a Group D match.
Bermuda’s coach Allison Settle said her competitors performed creditably.
“I felt really good. I felt when we went to the rallies we had a lot of good results,” she told Sunday Newsday.
But Settle said the hot weather, although similar to that of their homeland, did affect the women’s performance.
“I think everyone’s pretty tired from the heat.”
Player Kayley Hamilton said they could have done better.
“I think we could have had them. It was our first game. We were a bit nervous so I think in the next game we will be more ready and prepared.”
Her teammate Natalie Gazzard added, “I think we played really well. I think it was just first-game jitters, flying from home to our first international competition together. They were scheduled to play Trinidad and Tobago’s duo of Meeka Lewis Johnson and L’fe Roberts on Saturday afternoon.
The Cayman Islands team comprised Brianna and Anja Delapenha.
Of their match, Brianna said, “Overall, the game was very good. It was a good game to start off with. In the first set, we lost by a point and then in the second set, I think it was more of a mindset game.”
She said the weather was not too much of a factor in their performance.
“We have the advantage of being in the Caribbean so we are used to this weather. It is very nice that we are trapped in the mountains and there is no sea breeze so I think relatively, conditioning-wise it was a lot easier to us compared to other teams that may not be in the Caribbean. But we gave it our all for the first game and we are going to be winning from here on – first and last,” Brianna said.
Mozambique’s Veronica Rogue and Nadia Bango said their match was “not difficult but productive.”
They felt the weather was “not too hot but sufficient to play.”
In the men’s duo competition, England faced off with Canada in an opening match while New Zealand played the Gambia. Australia also came up against South Africa.
The TT teams are being coached and managed by Sean Morrison (men) and Mildred Yeguez Francois (women).
Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd (TTAL) executive chairman Alicia Edwards, who was among the spectators, said she was extremely pleased with the structures in place to facilitate the beach volleyball competition.
‘Today’s beach volleyball games are going well without incident so we are looking forward to an exciting week,” she told Sunday Newsday.
As it relates to tourism, she added, “The games is providing an excellent opportunity to share Tobago’s unique attractions with visitors. TTAL has been supporting sport tourism events in Tobago so a legacy strategy post games for sports tourism is a continuation of ongoing actions.”
Edwards said TTAL is in discussions with the Division of Sports to develop events using the facilities that have been upgraded or built.
She congratulated the Ministry of Sport, THA and the national and local organising committee for collaborating “to bring these prestigious games to our shores.”
The beach volleyball competition ends on August 10.