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UWC beach volleyball stars shine in Africa

The UWC beach volleyball sensation pair of Leo Williams and Grant Goldschmidt earned respect at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships after shining at the African Nations Qualifiers this week.

The University of the Western Cape Beach Volleyball Club members will represent the African continent in the men’s category at the world championships that are set to be hosted in Netherlands in June/July, alongside teams from Tunisia, Egypt and Ghana.

The duo topped Pool B, which comprised Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Niger, and beat Egypt in the semi-finals before losing to hosts, Tunisia 2-0 (21-18, 21-18), in a nail-biting final in Goulette on Wednesday, 18 February 2015. Williams and Goldschmidt had gone to the qualifiers as the top pair on the continent after they had won all the competitions since teaming up together two year ago.

The two will now turn their attention to the African Qualifiers to secure a spot in the All Africa Games in Brazzaville, Congo in September, and for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualifiers, in addition to the world championships. Williams commented that qualification for the Olympics is their main target, but that doesn’t mean they will not give their best in other competitions.

Goldschmidt agreed and said the two have a lot in common, benefiting their performances. Both are UWC alumni, they hail from the impoverished Mitchell’s Plain suburb, and are young with more or less the same physique. In addition, the two have similar skills, and they are hungry for success and share the same goals.

Having qualified for the world championships, the two are confident to do even better in future competitions, and they possess the necessary credentials to go all the way. Goldschmidt, who obtained his degree in sport and exercise science in 2009, took part in the 2012 London Olympic Games, has been a member of the South African national team for a long time, and received a gold medal at the 2012 CAVB Beach Volleyball Continental Cup in Mauritius.

Williams, a UWC graduate with BCom and honours in Marketing and Management and currently studying a Postgraduate Diploma in Management, is also a member of the national team, took part in the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Beach Volleyball World Cup Final in Brazil in June 2013, and participated at the FIVB Beach Volleyball Championships in Poland in July the same year, among other competitions.

Sadly, although the two have been flying the South African flag high, beach Volleyball is, relatively speaking, not a priority sporting code and not well supported financially. Therefore Goldschmidt and Williams need to raise money to partly fund their trips.

The two believe sport has changed their lives for the better. “Sport is one of the tools for developing communities. It opens up opportunities for children to be empowered and to have fun,” Goldschmidt comments. Williams adds: “We have travelled to countries that we would never have visited if we were not in sport.”

Goldschmidt and Williams came to UWC through sport bursaries. “UWC has opened up big avenues for me,” says Goldschmidt. Williams echoed his sentiments and says: “Sport game me education, education gave me a job, the job gave me a better salary and I live a good life. I would not have any of these if I was not at UWC and in sport.”