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Beach boys hold thumbs
- Updated: April 26, 2012
By Mark Etheridge
Life’s a beachÔÇª pretty literally in fact for our beach volleyball side who have become the first country to book their berth at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
They did so by winning the CAVB Beach Volleyball Continental Cup qualifying tournament at the unusually named venue of Flic en Flack Beach in Mauritius. The squad of Freedom Chiya, Grant Goldschmidt, Jerome Fredericks and Leo Williams sealed the tournament with victory against Angola in the final.
Their continental victory means they win a place through the new Olympic qualification system ÔÇô 39 countries from around the continent took part in the various phases. However the team’s participation in London is by no means┬á guaranteed. Although they have qualified according to FIVB criteria, South Africa’s Olympic governing body SASCOC still have the final decision in this regard.
To non-volleyball players the format may seem somewhat mind-boggling but Gershon Rorich, coach and manager of the team laid it out in layman’s terms: “The team that played in Mauritius were Grant and Chiya (team one), Jerome and Leo (team two). We played Congo Brazzaville in the semi-finals and beat them 4-0 and then we met Angola in the finals and beat them 3-2. The format works like this. It’s A1 v B2, A2 v B1, A1 v B1 and A2 v B2. If the matches end 2-2 then a golden set is played, which is one set to 15 points. This was what was required in the finals where our No1 team beat their No1 team 15-11.”
Chiya/Goldschmidt took the court for South Africa in the golden set where they were up against Eden/Marcio Sequiera, a combo that they had lost to earlier on in the day. But they led 7-3 at the first technical time out and increased that to┬á 11-4 before the Angolans staged a small comeback, although to no avail in the end.
After the match Chiya told the CAVB website: ÔÇ£It is a great moment for me and my team to be a gold medallist and to represent Africa at the Olympic Games,ÔÇØ Chiya said. ÔÇ£In the first game we played against them it was very hot and very difficult to play but in the golden set it was much easier and cooler. My team mate and I concentrated on every point.ÔÇØ
But back to Rorich, himself a former Olympian who competed in Athens 2004 with Colin Pocock. “The team has been busy with qualification for the last two years. Our qualification works like a Davis Cup format where its country versus country. We have come through four qualification events, ending last week with the Continental Cup.”
And Rorich is under no illusion as to just how tough it is for South African to compete on the world stage. “The guys who we played against all play on the world tour and we do not. Our sport depends a lot on national lottery funding We have two streams of the sport ÔÇô┬áindoor volleyball and beach. The majority of our membership is indoor based meaning that most of our resources are channeled there.”
Back to the monetary aspects. “To go on the world tour requires huge amounts of money. In fact to have a single team travel will cost us R1.2-million for one year and that’s for two players only. Our main focus is that SASCOC allows us to participate as we are ranked Number One in Africa and as my partner and I proved in 2004 anything can happen. when we were ranked 164th as a team and finished ninth at the olympics. Our players are good but the unfair breaks that they get from the corporate sector are unfair on their talent.”
Rorich must now sit down with his national executive and decide which two of the four players will go to London if SASCOC gives the go-ahead. And he has some powerful motivation to get the green light? “I believe that SASCOC should give us the nod knowing that its hard for the small sports to raise the funds that they require to travel for three years.
“Beach volleyball was one of the most watched sports at the 2004 Olympics and our players will do us proud. Medals are not everything, but exposure on the world’s biggest stage can only grow smaller sports in this country.
“Government should invest in the smaller sports, most of whose members hold down full-time jobs as well as playing for their country, for the next 12 years and then we will see more international success, more medals and a more diverse sporting culture on even grounds in South Africa.”