Accompanied by their seasoned partner Sarah Pavan, the Canadian beach volleyball duo flew over their competition at the Tokyo Olympics.
Never lagging behind in the event before Tuesday’s quarter-finals, the reigning world champions appeared poised to advance to the semi-finals – potentially against teammates Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson in what would have been an enticing match.
But disaster struck for Canada. Not once, but twice.
Pavan and Humana-Paredes lost in three sets to Australians Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy immediately after Bansley and Wilkerson suffered the same fate against Latvians Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka.
“(It) is going to take weeks… months, maybe, to figure out,” said Humana-Paredes, 28, moved in the wake of the staggering loss. “At this point in the tournament you’re going to be up against some amazing teams, and Australia are an amazing team. The other teams we played against were also very difficult and we prepared just as hard and just as well. We felt just as ready. for this game. It just didn’t show up on the pitch – it didn’t show up.
“And I don’t know why… I don’t know. I don’t really have an answer. ”
Pavan and Humana-Paredes lost the first set against the Australians 21-15. They fought to win the second 21-19 before falling 15-12 in the third in a windy Shinokaze park.
“We got off to a very slow start, I think it was clear,” said Pavan, 34, who also bit back tears. “We are catching up all the time. We’ve been in this position before, maybe not in this tournament, and I think we’re really good at moving on.
“We managed to turn things around in the second set and unfortunately we lost our footing a bit in the third set. “
Bansley and Wilkerson lost 13-21, 21-18, 11-15 thanks in large part to 13 serve errors compared to the Latvians’ eight.
Canada had two chances to advance to the semi-finals and would have been assured of a spot in the gold medal game if both teams advanced.
Instead, the program will remain with a lone bronze medal won by the men when beach volleyball was first introduced as an Olympic sport at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
“It definitely stings,” said Wilkerson, a 29-year-old Torontonian. “We know we have what it takes. ”
Bansley, 33, said playing in front of empty stands due to COVID-19 restrictions was a challenge.
“It was about trying to find the balance between bringing in our own energy and dealing with the empty stadium,” said the product from Waterdown, Ont. “We love to perform in front of a crowd and love that energy, even if they don’t cheer you on… you still feel it. We missed it. We missed it a lot, the whole game, but that’s what it is.
“The other teams were up against the same thing. “
Americans April Ross and Alix Klineman beat Germans Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch 21-19, 21-19 in the first quarter-final of the day before Swiss Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich outscored Brazilians Ana Patricia Silva Ramos and Rebecca Silva 21-19, 18-21, 15-12.
The Americans and Swiss will play in Thursday’s first semi-final at the venue overlooking Tokyo Bay, while the Latvians and Australians are set to fight for the other place in the gold medal showdown.
Bansley and Pavan were partners earlier in their careers, but a four-year run ended after a loss at the same stage of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Pavan said that despite this loss, she is proud of what her new team has accomplished.
“Melissa and I have done amazing things together,” said the Kitchener, Ont. Native. “We have something really special. Everyone is really good at volleyball, but I think we’ve really taken the time to invest in our relationship.
“I think it will serve us in the long run more than anything we ever do on the pitch. “
“Right now it hurts a lot,” Bansley added of that part of his trip with Wilkerson ending this way. “Disappointed with my performance… but I’m so grateful to be here with Brandie, for the five years we’ve been involved and worked hard together. “
Pavan and Humana-Parades, who was one of Canada’s substitutes in Brazil, are ranked second in the world by the sport’s governing body, while Bansley and Wilkerson are tied for 15th.
Wilkerson, another supporting cast member five years ago at the Games, said the future of beach volleyball in Canada is bright despite Tuesday’s overwhelming results.
“It’s wonderful,” she said of having two teams in the Olympic quarters for the first time. “We four women have known this has been happening for some time. We have been working for years. The four of us deployed financially, emotionally, mentally to be on the world stage and represent this country.
“I hope for women in sport this will inspire them and inspire Canadian women to play beach volleyball and summer sports, and know that we are just a tough country. ”
Humana-Parades, who is also from Toronto, added that she was grateful for her first real Olympic experience, even though it came during the pandemic.
“I’m really, really happy that we were able to compete here again, represent Canada and continue to play,” she said. “We certainly didn’t reach our goal, but I think we’ve learned a lot together over the years. We have been through some amazing things and that is part of the journey and there is more.
“There’s more after that, and… yeah, there’s more.” ”
Not here in Japan.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 3, 2021.
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