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Long trip earns rich rewards for St Lucians

Julian Bissette (left) and Gillan Octave are flying the flag for St Lucia
Myslowice, Poland, June 8, 2013 – It is a long way from the sunny, golden beaches of the Caribbean to the courts of southern Poland where the inaugural FIVB Beach Volleyball U23 World Championships is taking place, but that hasn’t stopped St Lucia’s two representatives from making history as the first two players from their country to compete at an FIVB age-group world championships. 

Julian Bissette and Gillan Octave are the two players who are representing the island nation of 176,000 people and while they may have travelled nearly 10,000 kilometres to get to Myslowice, they are in no doubt what their participation means. 

“It is the first world tournament for both of us and our country.” Bissette said. “The tournament is pretty tough because you have 32 teams, whereas on the NORCECA tour you have 16 teams and you don’t have much time to study your opponents because you play your games, while they’re playing their games.”

NORCECA Regulars

“So far we have got to see players from all round the world and it doesn’t get much better than that really,” Octave added. 

Bissete and Octave are regulars on the NORCECA Tour and it was through their fifth-place ranking that they earned their place in Myslowice. They both played a variety of sports in their youth before they took up volleyball aged 17 and from there they moved to beach volleyball two years ago. 

To reach the Tournament they had to fly for three hours to the east coast of the USA, where they caught a nine-hour flight to Poland’s capital Warsaw. From there they boarded a train for the remaining three hours, but despite the length of the journey, they knew it was a trip of a lifetime. 

“No matter how uncomfortable we were, we were coming to a World Championships and there was nothing to dampen our spirits. ‘We are coming to a world championships, we are coming to a world championships,’ and it was just a case of replaying that over and over in our heads,” Octave said. 

“It is a case of coming here and repping hard and letting everyone know that St Lucia isn’t just a place where you can come and lie on the beaches, you can come and be beaten on the beaches too.”

Beach Volleyball revolution

The pair have a Brazilian coach, Joao Carlos and the hope is that with his sage advice and the development program in place back home that they can lead a beach volleyball revolution in the Caribbean. 

“There is no better place to see where need to be than on the world stage and now we have had a taste,” Octave said. 

“We have a couple of young guys back home too, my buddy here is 22, I’m 21 and there are some 16 and 17 year-olds back home that are coming up, so this isn’t the last time you’ll see St Lucia up in here.”

Thirty-two teams per gender took place in the main draw of the inaugural FIVB U23 Beach Volleyball World Championships. The main draw started on June 6 and the tournament runs through until Sunday, June 9 when both the men’s and women’s finals take place. 

Myslowice, located 70km from Poland’s ancient capital Krakow, is hosting an FIVB age-group tournament for the third time, after successfully hosting the U19 and U21 version in 2006 and 2007.

It has also regularly hosted stops on the FIVB World Tour – the first tournament was a women-only tournament in 2008, as was the 2011 event. In 2009, 2010 and 2012 it was the men who lit up the sand. 

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