Beach Volleyball: Asian zonal tournement from today

Some of Asia’s strongest teams vie for berths for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Teams from six countries will compete at the second phase of the AVC Cup Asia Central Zone championship at the Kozhikode Beach from Friday.

Kazakhstan team training at Kozhikode beach.   -  K. Ragesh

Where beach volleyball originated is a matter of dispute: Hawaii and California both have their supporters. What is indisputable is the fact that it has made big strides as a popular sport across the globe since its beginning, a century ago.

It is an Olympic discipline now. Some of Asia’s strongest teams have assembled here as they vie for berths for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Teams from six countries will compete at the second phase of the AVC Cup Asia Central Zone championship at the Kozhikode Beach from Friday.

The teams from Kazakhstan should hog the limelight, both in the men’s and women’s sections. “Our aim is to play in the Rio Olympics,” the Kazakhstan coach Denis Rovkin said. “We have come here with strong teams for both the men’s and women’s events.”

His Indian counterpart, S. Ravinder Reddy too agreed that Kazakhstan would be the team to beat. “Iran should also be very strong in the men’s championship,” he said. “We are also confident of doing well here.”

The Indian men were, in fact, the winners of the tournament’s first phase, held in Maldives at the beginning of the year. But only one of those two successful pairs is here.

“Because of the injury to T. Naresh, who had teamed up with C. Raju, we are fielding a new pair of Krishna Chaitanya and Prahlad Dhawaskar,” said Ravinder. “The other pair from the champion side in Maldives -- Mohan Poothathan and Balamani Sankar -- is here, though.”

Teams from Sri Lanka and Maldives would also compete in the men’s championship. In the women’s section, Kazakhstan, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal are in the fray.

“Kazakhstan looks the strongest side in the competition,” said K. A. Shahana, who would partner with A. Sruthi. “Our teams should also be able to fare well.”

K. P. Athira and V. A. Aswathi make up the other Indian team.