Sarah Pavan (right) watches as her former partner Heather Bansley (center) hits against Germany's Kira Walkenhorst in the Canadian's final match together in the quarter-finals of the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
Lausanne, Switzerland, September 1, 2016 - During the most successful year in Canadian beach volleyball history and just before the largest FIVB tournament the country has ever staged, perhaps its most noted team has split.
Sarah Pavan and Heather Bansley, teammates for four years and fifth-place finishers at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, will play with different partners against each other in a trial to qualify for the SWATCH World Tour Finals in Toronto. The second annual event will be played September 13-18 on Polson’s Pier on Lake Ontario.
Pavan said she and Bansley had been planning for several weeks to have the Olympics be the final tournament in which they participated together.
“Obviously there are many reasons and I really don’t need to get into all of them, but a big one is that the goal is always to win tournaments and be on top of the podium and I really think we kind of maxed out on our capacity as a pair,” Pavan told the FIVB on Thursday. “And in four seasons we were never able to be on top of the podium.
“I think for both of us a switch is the right thing and it will give us an opportunity to try to win on our own with different partners. People might not be able to understand but as an athlete you want to be the best. Maybe we will have a better chance of reaching that goal with different partners. Going through four years and never winning we needed to make a change to try to make that happen.”
Pavan, 30, will join with 23-year-old Melissa Humana-Paredes and go up against Bansley, 28, and 24-year-old Brandie Wilkerson in an afternoon elimination match on September 13. The winner joins the field of 12 teams who will play for the US$100,000 top prize.
Melissa Humana-Paredes will team with Sarah Pavan in the Canadian Country
Quota match September versus Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson
While the split was announced after the duo declined to participate in the regular-season ending ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball FIVB Long Beach Grand Slam last week, the decision by Bansley and Pavan to part ways was made weeks before. They advised the Canadian Federation and the event promoter, BeachMajors CEO Hannes Jagerhofer, of their intentions.
“I wish it didn’t have to happen and I wish it didn’t come down to that,” Pavan said. “I don’t think either of us expected our team to have that spot considering the fact we decided not to play together anymore. Once that spot came out as belonging to us, the promoter, our federation and us together agreed that if it has to go to our team and we weren’t going to play together anymore, the trial format was the most fair. It’s definitely not ideal and both of us were forced to look forward faster than we anticipated.
“Hannes was made aware even before the Final was announced as being in Toronto so when that came out we kind of told him what was happening and what the plan was. He was a big proponent of having the trial. He’s bringing the sport to our country and bringing our country such a great opportunity by hosting the event, we wanted to help him out that way.”
Pavan and Bansley had two second-place finishes on the 2015 FIVB World Tour and had another second-place finish in the Porec (Croatia) Major this year. In the Olympics, they opened with four consecutive victories before being derailed by eventual gold medalists Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany in the quarterfinals.
The Canadian duo was one of four teams from their country to earn a spot in the Olympics, joining Kristina Valjas and Jamie Broder on the women’s side and Ben Saxton/Chaim Schalk and Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter. The latter three teams will compete in the SWATCH World Tour Finals, making this a breakthrough year for Canadian beach volleyball.
Sarah Pavan (left) blocks against Canadian rival Jamie Lynn Broder (right) as Kristina
Valjas follows the action in a "Sweet 16" match at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
“I’m so proud of that probably more than anything else,” Pavan said. “While I am playing right now, I feel like this whole thing that we’re all a part of is so much bigger than us. To be able to show young kids in our country that this is a viable career and something they can pursue past high school or college is exciting for us. In a country that is dominated by winter sports, people will be excited about beach volleyball and what we’re doing is so exciting. To be able to leave a little bit of that behind even when I’m done playing make me so happy.”