Beach

Canada's Wilkerson announces apparent split from beach volleyball partner Bansley

Canada's Brandie Wilkerson has apparently split with beach volleyball partner Heather Bansley. They competed together for the last few season — at one time holding the world No.1 ranking — and at Tokyo 2020.

Toronto native set to pair with 26-year-old Sophie Bukovec moving forward

Canada's Brandie Wilkerson, right, announced a split from her Tokyo Olympic partner Heather Bansley, left, on social media on Sunday. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Canada's Brandie Wilkerson has apparenty split with beach volleyball partner Heather Bansley.

They competed together for the last few seasons — at one time holding the world No.1 ranking — and at Tokyo 2020, where they placed fifth.

There was no official break-up announcement, but today Wilkerson posted on social media that she was excited to be partnering with Sophie Bukovec for the upcoming season.

Bukovec, the 26-year-old from Toronto, is a former world junior and college champion. She won the FIVB U21 title in 2014 with partner Tia Miric, and was an All-American for a USC Trojans program that won three straight national titles from 2015-2017.

Changing partners is not uncommon — there's been a lot on the FIVB circuit already this off-season. And although there had been fan speculation after the Olympics about the future of the top two Canadian pairs, mostly due to the age of Bansley and Sarah Pavan, there had been no word until today.

Toronto's Wilkerson, 29, is regarded as one of the best blockers in the world, but aside from Pavan's partner Melissa Humana-Paredes, there really wasn't a Canadian defender at her level except Bansley. Wilkerson has been playing with American Sarah Hughes on the Association of Volleyball Professionals circuit for the last few seasons when she wasn't playing FIVB events with Bansley. 

With this in mind, Bukovec made a monumental shift in her training. A natural blocker, Bukovec has spent the last few years learning how to play the defender spot as well, in case this kind of scenario ever emerged. 

"The past few years I have dedicated so much of myself to be best prepared for this exact moment. I purposely started training as a defender for the moment BRANDIE calls… and here we are," she said in an Instagram post announcing the move.

Wilkerson expressed her excitement to show what the duo can do on the sand.

"I cannot wait for you all to fall in love with Sophie and the dynamic, powerful, creative, and passionate energy this team has to offer," she wrote.

Wilkerson and Bukovec are currently training in Brazil ahead of the upcoming season.

There has been no word from Bansley on her future.

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