CLEARWATER – Nearly 500 athletes of all ages from around the world will compete in seven Olympic-style beach sports this weekend as the Sunshine State Games International Beach Games take place at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort on Friday, Sept. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017.
This is the third year the Games, which feature competitions in Beach Rugby, Beach Tennis, Beach Ultimate, Beach Powerlifting, Scottish Heavy Athletics, Ultra Weight Pentathlon and Under 19 Super Weight Throw, will utilize Clearwater’s wide, sugar sand beaches as the home base for the event, and according to organizers, the spot is an ideal one for the competition.
“It’s a really wide beach behind the Sheraton Sand Key, one of the widest I’ve ever seen. It’s big enough to set up four ultimate fields, 10 beach tennis courts plus a powerlifting platform,” Florida Sports Foundation communications director Nick Gandy said. “So, we’re going to have all this stuff going on all in one place.”
Gandy, whose organization also hosts the annual Florida Senior Games, explained the International Beach Games are sanctioned by the U.S. Track and Field Association and feature collegiate hopefuls, meaning highly regarded international competitors will be vying for world records as well as potential college scholarships.
“The cool thing is it’s a U.S. Track and Field sanctioned event, their only outdoor event in the state of Florida, and there’s recreational stuff, also,” he said. “Last year, a girl got a scholarship to Auburn, so the Games not only provide an outlet for the athletes but they help kids gain attention from college coaches and hopefully get athletic scholarships.”
Gandy said the highlight of the event, which is presented by St. Pete/Clearwater Sports and Events, the Sheraton Sand Key Resort and the Florida Sports Foundation, will come on Saturday, as hundreds of competitors in several sports will pack the beach.
“We’ll have the Beach Rugby, Ultimate Throws and Powerlifting going on, plus a fun sport called Beach Archery, which is like dodge ball but with bows and arrows,” he said. “So, Saturday at the beach is going to be pretty cool, and best of all, everything is free.”
Gandy noted food and drink will be available for purchase at the hotel bar, and he said parking will be available at the Sheraton Key Park adjacent to the resort.
According to press materials for the Games, gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to all top three individual finishers and members of the top three teams within each sport. The first-place teams in Beach Rugby and Beach Ultimate, which is played with a flying disc like Ultimate Frisbee, will receive team trophies. In Ultimate, a trophy also will be awarded to the team that best exemplifies the Spirit of the Game.
“The International Beach Games concept is perfect for Clearwater Beach and area around the Sheraton Sand Key Resort,” Florida Sports Foundation Sr. Vice President Stephen Rodriguez said in the release. “Visitors to the area on perfect late-summer, early fall weekend strolling along the beach will be amazed at what they see. Between the quality of athletes competing on the beach and the setup of the competition areas, this will be quite a spectacle.”