Canada names 8 to powerful Olympic beach volleyball team
Canadians have never sent bigger team to an Olympic Games
By Callum Ng
Beach volleyball is a sport that should be foreign to a winter nation, but on Wednesday Canada named four teams — two women's and two men's — for Rio 2016.
Heather Bansley, from Waterdown, Ont., and Kitchener, Ont.'s Sarah Pavan are Canada's top-ranked team heading into Rio. They are No. 5 on the Olympic ranking, with two FIVB World Tour medals this year, including a silver from the Porec Major, an elite competition at the beginning of July.
They'll be joined in the women's tournament by Victoria's Jamie Broder and Toronto's Kristina Valjas, who themselves have World Tour medals, including an historic one. The pair won a gold medal at the Fuzhou Open in April of 2015, which at the time was Canada's first-ever women's medal on the World Tour. They enter Rio ranked No. 13.
It has been a meteoric rise for Canada beach volleyball over the past two seasons. Since that first Broder and Valjas win, the two women's teams have combined to collect seven more World Tour medals.
It is the first-time Canada will send the maximum of four teams since beach volleyball's entry to the Olympic Games in 1996.
It was in Atlanta that John Child and Mark Heese won bronze, still Canada's only Olympic medal.
Looking to change that will be Calgary's Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk of Red Deer, Alta., who qualified directly through the World Tour and are No. 16 for the tournament.
It took London Olympian Josh Binstock and his partner Sam Schachter, both from Richmond Hill, Ont., until this last weekend to qualify.
They defeated fellow Canadians Sam Pedlow and Grant O'Gorman in a close playoff to win their trip to Rio.
Both of those teams had worked together to earn the second men's Olympic berth at a final qualification event in Sochi, Russia at the beginning of July.
Binstock and Schachter are ranked No. 24 for the Olympics, which is also the final spot.
Canada is one of only four countries including Brazil, the United States, and the Netherlands to send four teams this time around.
The beach volleyball competition runs Aug. 6 to 18 on the shores of the sport's berth in Rio's Copacabana Beach.