Pro volleyball hits the beach
Maverick and Goose versus Iceman and... who was that other guy? Oh yeah, Slider. It's hard not to link beach volleyball with either Top Gun's cold war fighter jocks or the forever young Coppertoned pros who have no body fat and look like they've never been shod in anything but flip-flops. The former are, thankfully, locked away on videotape ("Highway to the danger zone, baby!"). But the latter are in Fort Lauderdale this weekend for the kickoff tournament of the 2004 Association of Volleyball Players Pro Beach Volleyball Tour.
The purse for this weekend's AVP Nissan Series tournament is $125,000. The 32 men's and 24 women's teams are chock-a-block with Olympic medal winners, like Karch Kiraly, as well as Olympic hopefuls. But don't be confused. This isn't the qualifying series for the Athens Summer Games -- a process that consists of taking teams' best eight scores in competitions sponsored by yet another organization, the Federation Internationale de Volleyball -- though there is crossover. All of the teams vying to represent the United States are competing on this AVP tour, so the tournament will be a good opportunity to preview U.S. Olympic contenders. For now, the two top women's teams are pretty much locked in. In 2003, Kerry Walsh and Misty May were undefeated. And former Olympians Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs have also accumulated enough points to put them in red, white, and blue uniforms. Men's competition is tighter, with several teams in contention. Watch for the teams of Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard, Stein Metzger and Dax Holdren, and Eric Fonoimoana and Kevin Wong. Local amateur teams with the need for speed compete Friday for one of the main competition's few open slots. Main draw competition lasts from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, semifinals start at 9 a.m. and finals at 2 p.m. All matches will be played at South Beach Park (1140 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) on the north side of the Yankee Clipper Beach Hotel. Tickets start at $10 for one day and $17 for two days. Visit www.avp.com, or call 310-426-8000. -- David Amber
Back On Track
You Can Bet On It
Got the itch to place a few wagers on some eminent thoroughbred competition? Or are you not the betting type but love to get outside and partake of the finer things in South Florida? Either way, you're in luck, as Gulfstream Park (901 S. Federal Hwy., Hallandale Beach) has two major stakes races on the calendar for Saturday, April 3, and another fine event on tap for Sunday. First there's the $250,000 Aventura Stakes for 3-year-olds over a mile and one-sixteenth. Next is the $300,000 Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap for 3-year-olds and up over a mile and one-quarter. (Keep an eye out for Indy Dancer, whose daddy, A.P. Indy, won the 1992 Belmont Stakes and a Breeders Cup Classic.) And if that's not enough, on Sunday, you can also check out the ladies in the $75,000 Banshee Breeze Handicap for fillies and mares three years and older over a mile and one-sixteenth. And if the betting window does end up catching your eye, do yourself a favor and pick up a Daily Racing Form in order to make a semi-educated decision. Park admission is $5, and parking is free. Post time for the first race each day is 1 p.m. Call 954-454-7000. -- Russ Evans
Kids Have All the Fun?
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What do you get when you cross the foot-flyin' action of soccer with the hard-hitting thrills of baseball? Ah, come on. You know this. Think back to your school days. No, not sockball; that's the game bullies played on you in the locker room... It's kickball. And thanks to the World Adult Kickball Association, everyone's favorite hybrid sport is no longer just for P.E. class. The WAKA's new Florida Beach Division opens later this month and is holding a few preseason games on Thursdays at Tradewinds Park (3600 W. Sample Rd., Coconut Creek) to help kick off its first year. "Adult kickball is huge in Washington, D.C.," notes division vice president and former Capitol City resident Jonathan Korb, who helped bring the WAKA to South Florida. Korb says the association is one part sport, one part social club. "WAKA is much more than just a kickball league -- it is also a co-ed social experience," he says. Registration is open until April 20. Games start at 6:30 p.m. Call 954-683-1977. -- Jason Budjinski
Wheelchair Tennis, Anyone?
That John McEnroe sure had it rough, huh? With all those smashed tennis rackets, he was the Pete Townshend of professional tennis. But why was he always flying off the handle? Is tennis that infuriating? Or was he just a pampered pro who took his status for granted? Perhaps the John McEnroes of the world can learn a bit about sportsmanship from the hundreds of athletes competing in this year's Florida Open International Wheelchair Tennis Championships, which take place at the Patch Reef Park Tennis Center (2000 Yamato Rd., Boca Raton). These two-wheeled tennis masters refuse to let physical handicap deter them -- let alone cry over a few missed serves. Some are quadriplegics who play without the use of either hand. But that's no reason to quit; they simply tape their rackets to their arms and carry on. The athletes, representing 25 countries, are vying for inclusion in the Paralympic Games, to be held this September in Greece. The tennis tournament runs April 7 to 11. Admission is free. Call 561-997-0881. -- Jason Budjinski