Collin cites competition
Long Beach, USA, July 26, 2014 - For Phil Collin, this week’s US$1-million FIVB World Tour event might be “just another event” to cover as he has been reporting on sporting activities in southern California for more than four decades.
But ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball is more than “another event” for Collin where big crowds enjoyed international competition at Alamitos Beach, as action continues through Sunday when the winning teams in both the men’s and women’s brackets will share the $70,000 first-place prizes.
Collin, who is covering the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball for the second-straight year for the Los Angeles News Group, said the “success of the 2013 event was stunning. The size and scope was a breakthrough not only for U.S. volleyball, but for international volleyball. They went bigger this year.”
For a sportswriter that has covered just about everything, including the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Clippers, USC football and college basketball, Collin said that the constant thread has been his reporting on Beach Volleyball every summer where he said the “sport sells itself. It can be played by anyone.”
One of the appealing aspects for Collin this week, as compared to a domestic event, is the “country-vs.-country competition to draw fans. And there is no doubt, considering the atmosphere at Olympiads where the party revolves around the beach, that Southern California culture is pervasive. And persuasive.”
With the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball featuring 91 men’s and women’s teams, Collin cites that the “depth of the field on both the men's and women's side is amazing. The Olympics should be a tournament like this? Why cut down on entries (currently only 48 teams for the Summer Games) when you can put an event on like this?”
With this week’s FIVB World Tour stop being the third international event that he has covered, Collin was asked about the changes in the sport he has seen since starting his coverage in 1981 as a 19-year old reporter for the Daily Breeze in Hermosa Beach.
“Absolutely yes and sometimes, no,” said Collin about the changes. “The training and nutrition now is off the charts compared to then, of course. That has enabled the athletes of today to compete at the highest level deep into what we consider old age for athletes, like Emanuel (Rego, 41 years old), Ricardo (Santos, 39), Hyden (John, 41), and Rogers (Todd, 40). Then again, in the 1996 Olympics you had veterans like Kiraly (Karch), Dodd (Mike), Whitmarsh (Mike) still dominant. I believe that spurred the next generation and the training regimen of Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana, the 2000 gold medalists, also set a standard.”
His coverage at the 2003 FIVB World Tour stop in near-by Carson was also an “eye-opening experience” for Collin.
“In 2003, it was eye-opening for us in Southern California to see not only how good the rest of the world had become but also how physical the sport had become,” said Collin. “The sight of 6-foot-8 Sascha Heyer (Switzerland) walking onto a court was mind-boggling to us at the time. He might as well have been Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. As a writer, though, the first thing you noticed about the foreign players is how receptive they were to the media. Emanuel was the class act he always has displayed. Ana Paula (Connolly then, Henkel now from Brazil) was an incredible ambassador. It was a great women's final with Misty and Kerri (May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings) defeating Ana Paula and Sandra Pires.”
Listing Kiraly as the best-ever on his list of Volleyball/Beach Volleyball players, Collin tabs Brazilian standout Emanuel as another player that standouts in the sport. “He was one of the first foreign players to play on the AVP tour and then went on to dominate around the world. Unfortunately, we have not seen the Europeans enough through the years.”
When asked if an event like the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball can stand alone without other events like music to attract crowds, Collin said “yes, but not in Southern California, and perhaps not in the U.S. For all of its success, this is success on a volleyball level in a country that has all of its other sports and interests. I believe that Europeans, for instance, can hold a tournament for the sport's sake. Here, we can't just rely on the volleyball crowd. The people have to be drawn to the events first to grow their interest. Americans, bless their attention-deficit-addled hearts, need to be entertained first before latching onto to the love of sports for their own sake.”
With the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball winding down, Collin was asked about the top players competing in the FIVB World Tour stop where competition returns to Europe for a stop in Klagenfurt, Austria.
“On the men’s side and in no particular order, Dalhausser (Phil), Fijalek (Grzegorz) Prudel (Mariusz). Quietly, the Poles (Fijalek and Prudel) have a 12-match win streak after ending the 20-match streak of Rosie (Sean Rosenthal) and Dalhausser last week in The Netherlands. The most amazing performance of the tournament, however, belongs to Todd Rogers. Qualifier. 40 years old. Semifinals. Wow. On the women’s side, Kerri (Walsh Jennings), April (Ross), Laura Ludwig. An extra nod to Agatha (Bednarczuk) and Barbara (Seixas) of Brazil.”
For final thoughts, Collin said there “needs to be more than one FIVB event in the U.S. every year. Hey, we' make a good meeting point between South America and Asia. If you're going to have a layover, why not hit the beach and play some volleyball?”
Collin also feels that there “needs to be a rivalry. With the depth and parity, I realize that's going to be hard to come by. But the growth in Beach Volleyball in the U. S. surged in the 1980s with two factions fighting for supremacy, namely Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos from the Westside against Mike Dodd and Tim Hovland from the South Bay. Each summer, the season built to a crescendo that absorbed the fans, especially leading up to the Manhattan Open. Hmmm, the FIVB Manhattan Open!”
For a sportswriter that has covered the top sporting attractions in one of the United States’ largest city, Collin is not just reporting on “just another event” this week. When he started covering Beach Volleyball on the Pacific Ocean courts, the prize was a handshake and a tee-shirt from the promoter.
Now, Collin is witnessing competition for the biggest purse for a Beach Volleyball event in the United States where 182 international athletes from 31 countries started play Tuesday vying for podium spots Sunday in southern California where the sport was developed and established some four decades ago when a young sportswriter began reporting.
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