Canadian Ben Saxton (right) celebrates his 32nd birthday at home in Calgary.
Calgary, Canada, November 21, 2020 - For Canadian Olympian Ben Saxton, celebrating his 32nd birthday will be like most everyone in the “Year of the Pandemic” as he is at home here today with his wife and family.
“Gatherings aren't encouraged right now,” said Saxton, who has been participating in FIVB events since 2005 and placed ninth at the Rio 2016 Summer Games with Chaim Schalk.
Due to the pandemic, Saxton said he and his wife Emily “moved back to Calgary in April to help with the family's business, the Volleydome, which, as a facility that needs people in order to survive, took a big hit when everything closed. When things started to gradually reopen, I've started coaching young athletes and trying to build up a semi pro beach league, the NBVL, for athletes who want to play at a high level without having to travel so far to do so.”
With his current partner Grant O’Gorman sidelined with health issues early this year, Saxton said his team had a “couple of months of practices together after his surgery. Grant and I were able to train a little bit in Calgary and a little in Vancouver, then went and played in the King of the Court tournament in the Netherlands. Grant says he felt the health scare made him feel more human, but I think his recovery and ability to come right back into playing makes him more of a superhero.”Read more: O'Gorman even stronger after journey of self-discovery
As for the uncertainty in regard to the resumption of competition, Saxton said “it is difficult to plan training, since we usually decide what phase of training we are in based on when the next event will be. Without any confirmed events on the horizon, there's no way to know what we should be doing. The main priority has been health, trying to make sure our bodies are in good physical condition, but also trying to find ways to play locally in safe environments so that once things do get announced for next season we'll be ready to jump into whatever training phase that calls for.”
Saxton said “physically, I am feeling great. I've been playing for a long time where there's been some issue or another that's bugging me, and the break has finally given me the chance to fully deal with everything in the knees, shoulders, ankles, etc. I feel healthier and stronger than I have since I was a kid. Mentally it's tough to deal with all of the constant changing of the situation, one day you think everything will come back, the next day there's another lockdown planned. I've just been trying to keep myself busy with the Volleydome, the NBVL, and coaching to stay sane, but always staying close to the sport.”
Saxton, who has played in 112 World Tour events since making his debut in 2007, was introduced to the sport by his parents (Don and Mylene Saxton), who both were Canadian national indoor volleyball players. His father played on Canada's fourth-place Olympic team at the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Games.
Don Saxton (left), 1984 Canadian Olympian and Ben Saxton's father.
Despite his parent’s background, Saxton said he “chose beach because it's easier to be involved in every play. I have more influence on the outcome of every match. I started playing beach volleyball when I was 14 at the Volleydome in Calgary.
Saxton said his most memorable moment as a beach volleyball player was “winning the match versus Evandro (Goncalves) and Pedro (Solberg) with Chaim in front of the Brazilian crowd at the Rio 2016 Olympics. We had lost a three-set match the day before to the Latvians (Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins) and then came back to defeat Evandro and Pedro in three sets 2-1 (17-21, 21-18, 16-14).
The Canada vs. Brazil pool play match at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Another match with the Latvians also ranks as one of Saxton’s favourites as he and Schalk posted a 2-1 (19-21, 30-28, 20-18) bronze medal win in 61-minutes over Samoilovs and Smedins in Porec, Croatia on July 3, 2016. “It was a crazy back and forth match in front of an amazing crowd, where we won our first Major Series medal.”
The Porec 2016 podium with (left to right) Alexander Horst, Clemens Doppler, Bruno Oscar Schmidt, Alison Cerutti, Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk.
After playing in 55 World Tour events with Schalk, Saxton joined forces with O'Gorman to compete in 25 FIVB events starting with a gold medal finish in their first appearance together in late November 2017 on Manly Beach in Sydney where the Canadians defeated France's Quincy Aye and Youssef Krou in the two-set finale.
Canadians Grant O'Gorman (left) and Ben Saxton with their Manly Beach gold medals in November 2017.
The 27th ranked team on the World Tour when the list was frozen in mid-March 2020, Saxton and O’Gorman secured their second FIVB medal together with a silver medal finish on home sand in July 2019 in Edmonton.