Guam's beach volleyball players keen to compete at the Youth Olympic Games
Agana, Guam, April 2, 2014 - The Guam Volleyball Federation recently announced it will send male and female beach volleyball teams to the 2014 Youth Olympic Games Qualifiers scheduled for April 4 to 6 in Khanom Beach, Thailand.
Kristina Folta and Adriana Chang, both juniors at St. John's School, qualified by winning the GVBF Junior Cup in February.
Riley Jones, of the Guam Adventist Academy and Misaki Cramer of the Harvest Christian Academy are the participating men's team after finishing top of the podium at the Junior Cup and the qualifying tournament. "I'm super excited," Folta said. "It's something that I never thought I'd do."
The Folta-Chang team has played in Saipan, but Thailand will be the first major tournament of their career and it could become even bigger. The top six teams at the Youth Olympic Games Qualifiers will then represent their respective countries at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games this August in Nanjing, China.
Folta and Chang have been teammates in both indoor and beach volleyball for a while and they play the same position - outside hitter - for the same school. The Junior Cup was the first time Cramer and Jones had played together.
Cramer, playing with pro Paul Baxter, recently became the youngest winner ever of the Marianas Beach Volleyball Cup in Saipan. He said he's been looking for an opportunity to play with Jones for a while and called him up for the qualifying tournament, which was scheduled on late notice.
"We always see each other on the beach playing," Cramer said. "It's not like we weren't friends." The competitors will miss a week of school and practice for the tournament. And while both are avid volleyball players (Jones will miss a match with the GAA Angels) they have shown a preference for beach volleyball.
For Cramer, the beach is where he learned the finer points of the sport. "Beach volleyball started off just as a side hobby, but it became our whole life," Chang said.
The commitment paid off as they will now have a chance to qualify to compete at the Youth Olympic Games.
The competition format in Thailand will be first a preliminary round robin followed by a single-elimination classification.
The top six teams in each gender will qualify one team from their country for the second Youth Olympic Games, which will be held at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Sports Park Complex from August 17 to 27.
Both teams are coached by Chris Shepherd, a former member of the Guam national team, and they practice before school three times a week.
These competitors from Guam know they have more to look forward to in Thailand than just the food. "We have a very limited opportunity to see outside talent here on Guam, so just to see their work ethic and help us improve is valuable," said Folta.
Jones said he is not planning to go to Thailand just to play. He wants to win.
His teammate Cramer is looking forward to the chance to compete. "I just want to enjoy my experience in the tournament," Cramer said. "I think it's going to be really fun."
The Youth Olympic Games are an elite sporting event for young people from all over the world. It is an event distinct from other youth sports events, as it also integrates a unique Culture and Education Programme based around five main themes: Olympism; Social Responsibility; Skills Development; Expression and Well-being; and Healthy Lifestyles.