Canadians Ben Saxton (left) and Chaim Schalk celebrate success at this week's Moscow Grand Slam where the pair won their pool Thursday.
Moscow, Russia, May 26, 2016 - Is it really a rivalry between the two teams to see which tandem will represent Canada in the men’s Beach Volleyball competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games or will the North American country have two entries into the Copacabana quadrennial?
With two Canadian women’s teams destined to compete in Rio this August at the 2016 Summer Games, the men’s pairs of Ben Saxton/Chaim Schalk and Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter are hoping for the same as the country has never had four teams competing in the same Olympic Games.
The two Canadian men’s teams posted 2-1 pool play marks this week at the US$800,000 Moscow Grand Slam while the women’s pairs of Heather Bansley/Sarah Pavan (3-0 record) and Jamie Broder/Kristina Valjas (1-2) also combined for four wins in six group matches to advance to Friday’s elimination rounds.
At the moment, Saxton and Schalk are ranked No. 12 (4,700 points) on the Rio provisional qualifying list for their best 12 finishes on the FIVB World Tour since the start of the process in April 2015. With the top 15 teams from the international circuit, excluding Brazilians and a maximum of two pairs per country, Binstock and Schachter are No. 17 (4,250).
Both Canadian men’s teams started this week’s event strong with two-straight pool wins each, but lost to higher-seeded pairs in their final group matches. Despite losing 2-1 (21-16, 20-22, 15-13) in 47 minutes to seventh-seeded Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst, the 10th-seeded Saxton and Schalk still captured the Pool G crown due to a better point ratio than the Austrians.
Binstock and Schachter, who were seeded 16th in the Moscow Grand Slam, dropped a 2-0 (21-14, 21-14) decision to top-seeded and reigning FIVB world champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt of Brazil in a Pool A match. Binstock and Schachter started the event by defeating 17th-seeded Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland in three sets Wednesday. The Poles are the No. 1 team on the 2015-2016 FIVB World Tour ranking list.
Canada's Sam Schachter (left) blocks an attack of Brazil's Bruno Oscar Schmidt
When asked if his team was competing against Binstock and Schachter for an Olympic berth, Schalk said "there is a little bit of competition always, but we really want to see four Canadian teams in the Olympics. It would be great for the sport in Canada, for development of the sport."
Saxton added “that would be amazing. Beach Volleyball is been getting a lot better in Canada. Last year, we had no teams that qualified in the top 16 and we had to do the continental route. This year, we have a chance of having four through the top 15 method. So I think it's huge for Canada. It will be great for the sport. It's growing like crazy and that would be great."
As for the Moscow Grand Slam where the Canadians won their pool for the second-straight year, Schalk said before knowing the outcome of Pool G due to point ratio as one more match was to be played in the group, "so far we won our first two and lost this one. I think we still have a shot at winning the pool. We hopefully will come away with good news on our front, but we are happy with the play overall."
"Having four teams at the Olympic would be huge for Canada" @chaimschalk
In addition to the Canadians receiving “good news” about capturing their pool, other group winners were Alison/Bruno (Pool A), 15th-seeded Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel of Poland (Pool B), 19th-seeded Jonathan Erdmann/Kay Matysik of Germany (Pool C), fourth-seeded Evandro Goncalves/Pedro Solberg of Brazil (Pool D), sixth-seeded Alexander Brouwer/Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands (Pool F) and eighth-seeded Viacheslav Krasilnikov/Konstantin Semenov of Russia (Pool H).
The Moscow Grand Slam elimination matches for men and women will be played Friday and Saturday to set the lineup for Sunday’s medal matches. The winning teams will share the $57,000 first-place prizes.