Two beach volleyball pairs from the island nation secured Olympic tickets to travel to Buenos Aires 2018 thanks to victories at the Caribbean qualifier. The country now has the same number of athletes (four) that it sent to the first two Youth Olympic Games.
Green Park awaits the 32 pairs per gender for the competition that will take place from October 7-17. There are still six places (one from the World Championship in China and five from the African qualifier in Algeria) in addition to five universality places that have yet to be awarded.
The beach volleyball qualifier organised in Oranjestad by CAZOVA (Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association) had a strong local performance: two pairs from Aruba took home the title and won the only Olympic ticket for the region. The paradisiacal island will be present at Buenos Aires 2018.
Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, the Virgin Islands, Jamaica and Suriname were the other five countries that participated in the qualifier at the famed Eagle Beach last weekend. None of them, however, could rival the locals, which demonstrated their skills and fulfilled their objective.
The women, Kayla Arends and Mali Rafini, suffered a difficult defeat before Trinidad and Tobago in the group stage, but recovered in the quarterfinals to eliminate Jamaica and later Suriname in the semi-final. In the match for the ticket to Buenos Aires 2018 they didn’t give Haiti a chance, winning 21-14 and 21-6.
Among the men, Brian Howell and Raibiently Mercalina, were unbeatable in Orangestad. After finishing first in their group, they went directly to the semi-final, leaving the Jamaican pair behind along the way. In the final against Trinidad and Tobago they struck just in time: 21-19 and 21-18.
With the outstanding performance of these four young athletes, Aruba is currently sending the same number of representatives as it did in the first two summer editions of the Youth Olympic Games (Singapore 2010 and Nanjing 2014). In October there could even be more representatives from the small (180 km2) Caribbean nation with just 103,000 inhabitants.
Beach volleyball will have 32 pairs per gender. Following the Caribbean Championship there are just six regular quota places left to fill: one this week at the World Championship in Nanjing (China) and five at the African qualifier in Algiers (Algeria) at the end of the month. In addition, five universality places will be announced.
The beach volleyball court at Green Park will be home to the competition from October 7-17. At the sport’s debut at Nanjing 2014 there were different Caribbean representatives: Trinidad and Tobago for the women, and Jamaica for the men. Now’s it’s Aruba’s turn, times two…