Canadian beach volleyball followers are in for a treat this week.
Toronto's Polson Pier plays host to the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals, starting Wednesday, with 11 of the 12 men's teams and 10 of the 12 women's squads that competed at the Rio Olympics vying for the $100,000 US top prize in each gender.
"I think it's great for Toronto and for Canada to see the level that we compete against all year and reach people beyond the volleyball community to those interested in sport," Toronto resident Heather Bansley, who lost in the Olympic quarter-finals with now-former partner Sarah Pavan, told CBC Sports on the weekend.
"There are going to be four Canadian teams all week along with other Olympic athletes. I encourage people to come and watch."
Added Pavan: "The top teams in the world are coming, so fans can expect big things."
The World Tour Finals is the only FIVB international tournament in Canada this season and the first in the country since the Quebec Open in 2011. Toronto last hosted a double-gender beach volleyball World Tour event in 2000.
There are four pools of three teams for men and women that will play a round-robin competition, with the winner earning a bye to the single-elimination quarter-finals. The second- and third-place teams in each pool will meet each other for a place in the final eight.
Eight teams in each gender qualified via the FIVB World Tour Rankings, with four wild cards granted at the discretion of the FIVB and tourney organizer.
Canada leads with the maximum four teams allowed (two men, two women, all wild card entries) followed by Brazil and the United States with two men's and one women's team, respectively.
The Canadian men's duos are Chaim Schalk/Ben Saxton and Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter. Schalk and Schachter reached the round of 16 in Rio while Binstock and Schachter failed to advance from the preliminary round.
On the women's side, the Julie Broder/Kristina Valjas tandem, which fell to Bansley and Pavan in the round of 16 in Rio, is in for Canada, as is Bansley. She joined forces with Brandie Wilkerson on Tuesday to defeat Pavan and her new partner, Melissa Humana-Paredes, in straight sets to gain entry to the main draw.
After their breakup, Pavan and Bansley agreed to play each other following discussions with the Canadian Federation and tourney promoter Hannes Jagerhofer of BeachMajors.
Pool A: Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt, Brazil (No. 1 seed, 2016 Olympic champions); Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri, Italy (9); Lombardo Ontiveros/Juan Virgen, Mexico (8)
Pool B: Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins, Latvia (2); Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel, Poland (10); Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen, Netherlands (7)
Pool C: Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena, U.S. (3); Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter, Canada (11); Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak, Poland (6)
Pool D: Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg, Brazil (5); Tri Bourne/John Hyden, U.S. (12); Ben Saxton/Chaim Schalk, Canada (4)
Pool A: Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre, Switzerland (8); Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy, Australia (9); April Ross/Kerri Walsh Jennings, U.S. (1)
Pool B: Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr, Switzerland (7); Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug, Argentina (10); Laura Ludwig/Kira Walkenhorst, Germany (No. 2 seed, Rio Olympic gold medallists)
Pool C: Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca, Brazil (3); Jamie Broder/Kristina Valjas, Canada (11); Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez, Spain (6)
Pool D: Heather Bansley/Brandie Wilkerson, Canada (4); Chantal Laboureur/Julia Sude, Germany (5); Laura Giombini/Marta Menegatti, Italy (12)
- Pool play matches: Wednesday-Friday
- Round of 16: Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. ET
- Quarter-finals: Saturday at 4:45 and 5:45 p.m. ET
- Semifinals: Sunday at 10 and 11 a.m. ET
- Bronze medal game: Sunday at 1:45 p.m. ET
- Gold medal game: Sunday at 3 p.m. ET
- Pool play matches: Wednesday and Thursday
- Round of 16: Friday, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET
- Quarter-finals: Friday at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET
- Semifinals: Saturday at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. ET
- Bronze medal game: Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET
- Gold medal game: Saturday at 2:45 p.m. ET
- Men: Alison Cerutti/Bruno Oscar Schmidt, Brazil
- Women: Larissa Franca/Talita Antunes, Brazil
By the numbers
30: Average age
22: Youngest player — Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland
43: Oldest player — John Hyden, U.S.
6-foot: Shortest player — Adrian Carambula, Italy
6-foot-11: Tallest player — Evandro Goncalves, Brazil
29: Average age
24: Youngest player — Brandie Wilkerson, Canada; Taliqua Clancy, Australia; Anouk Verge-Depre, Switzerland; Joana Heidrich, Switzerland
38: Oldest player — Kerri Walsh Jennings, U.S.
Five-foot-7: Shortest player — Heather Bansley, Canada
Six-foot-three: Tallest player — Joana Heidrich, Switzerland; Kerri Walsh Jennings, U.S.