Tuyay takes shot at 2008 Olympics
The UH alumnus hopes to play for the Philippines in Beijing
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Kimo Tuyay gave up a successful real estate career in Honolulu to pursue a career as a beach volleyball player. And not just any beach volleyball player ... an Olympian.
Tuyay, the career assist leader at Hawaii, moved to California, where he has teamed with pro Chad Mowrey in an attempt to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games. The two Filipino Americans hold dual citizenship and are hoping to represent the Philippines next summer.
It's going to take a lot of hard work and money for Team Phi to make it but, as Tuyay says, "If I don't go for it now I'll always kick myself for not trying."
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They've been jumping through all the proverbial hoops in order to turn their dream into a reality. Interlocking hoops that resemble the symbol of their ultimate destination: the Olympics.
Kimo Tuyay and Chad Mowrey believe they have the talent and the drive to make it to Beijing next summer, to compete in beach doubles volleyball.
They also already have their passports ... actually two, reflecting their dual citizenships (both of their mothers were born in the Philippines). All the pair of Filipino Americans need is gas money to get their journey started.
Tuyay, Hawaii's career assist leader, and Mowrey, who's enjoyed success on the pro beach tour, are seeking funds for Team Phi. To have a chance at representing the Philippines in the Games, the two need money to compete in enough international events to earn qualifying points.
The dream does not come cheap.
Get out the globe. Canada, Germany, France, Finland, Russia, Poland, Brazil, Mexico and Bali ... those are the FIVB Tour stops from now until early November.
"We've been trying to do a lot on our own, working as much as we can while still trying to train," said Tuyay, now living in Hermosa Beach, Calif. "The hard part is getting sponsors. If we don't get funding, we really can't afford it.
"The minimum is probably $2,500, $3,000 a tournament for both of us, and that covers flights, housing, food, etc. We're not extravagant. But the more we got, the more we could concentrate on our playing."
Tuyay, who played for the Warriors from 2001 to 2004, is currently working part-time as a valet at a Manhattan Beach hotel. He left a well-paying real estate job in Honolulu in February to join Mowrey in California and train.
The transition from indoors to the sand wasn't easy, particularly for someone who has spent his volleyball life as a setter. The beach game requires both players to hit, pass and block ... things Tuyay didn't do much while at UH.
"Hitting is a big part and I'm not used to that, or passing," Tuyay said. "And you have to get used to the sand, get your legs.
"The guys on the beach are very physical. We're a pretty small team. We have to be the better ball-handling team. We use whatever advantage we can."
Which means confusing the opposing team by wearing identical outfits. Both Tuyay and Mowrey are about 6-foot-2 with the same body type, weight and coloring.
"It's hard to tell us apart," Tuyay said, "which is good because teams aren't sure who they should be serving."
"Kimo's getting better and better," said Mowrey, who played two years in junior college before turning pro. "It took a few months for him to get his swing, get his shoulder stronger.
"It's coming together."
That the two ended up together is a case of fate meeting the Internet. Mowrey had been looking to play for the Philippines since 2000, contacting several Filipino-American volleyball players about teaming up for an Olympic shot.
Mowrey had little success until posting on MySpace earlier this year. Tuyay called him the next morning.
"My first question was about how interested he was in playing volleyball," Mowrey said. "He said he was actually moving to San Diego to pursue it. Then I asked how would he like to represent the Philippines.
"We've been training for the past five months."
And putting in a lot of leg work off the beach. They've got the blessing of the Philippine Olympic Committee, put their dual citizenship papers in order, have their Web site up and running (www.TeamPHI.com) and done promotional appearances at Filipino-American events.
Earlier this month, they signed autographs and raffled off an autographed volleyball at the annual Filipino Cultural Celebration in Oceanside, Calif.
"It went really good," Tuyay said. "We got a lot of people interested, received a lot of e-mails from people after. What we wanted to do was provide awareness of our team."
The pair also plan to go to the Philippines to train and raise awareness of their Olympic hope. They'll compete as Team PHI in the Southeast Asian Games Nov. 26-30 in Thailand.
"This is my one shot at the Olympics, even if it's through the backdoor," Tuyay said. "I'm trying to be realistic and I don't think I can last until 2012 (London Olympics).
"I want to play while I can, do it while I can and I know I'd kick myself for not trying."
It's a steep climb up the Olympic qualifying ladder. Only 23 teams make it based on points, a maximum of two per country.
Tuyay, 24, and Mowrey, 29, are the only men's team representing the Philippines. The first goal is to get to the FIVB tournament in Montreal, July 4-8.
"We have sponsorship packets available to send out," Tuyay said. "Exclusive two-year rights would be $150,000. Hey, you never know. But even $50 would help."