16 of ‘16: The rise of Volleyball Canada
With the year coming to a close, Olympic.ca will look back at 16 of the most memorable Team Canada stories of 2016. As a new “16 of ‘16” story is revealed daily, you can find the entire series here.
Whether its indoor or beach volleyball the facts speak for themselves, everything was timed just right for Rio 2016.
Here’s a look at why 2016 will go down as one of the most successful years in Volleyball Canada history.
For the first time in 24 years, a Canadian men’s volleyball squad was competing at the Olympics, along with an unprecedented contingent of four Canadian beach volleyball pairs. In fact, there were just as many Canadian volleyball players who jetted off to Rio 2016 as there were at the 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games combined.
The stars were aligned for the indoor program in June when, after a long and arduous journey spanning over two decades, Volleyball Canada’s men captured one of four remaining spots available at the World Olympic Qualification Tournament.
Related: Canada wins FIVB World League Title
What ensued would help write the Canadian men’s volleyball team’s fairy tale story. Following the advice of 1984 Olympian Glenn Hoag and led by scorers Gavin Schmitt and Gord Perrin, the Canadian squad performed so well in the World League that they were promoted to Division 1, in addition to finishing a very respectable fifth place at the Olympic tournament in Rio.
Due to the FIVB rankings of the Canadian beach volleyball teams and a win at the Continental Olympic Qualification Tournament, the nation was able to qualify the maximum of four pairs in Rio, a first for Canada. Only three other countries have achieved this feat: Brazil, the Netherlands and the United States.
On Brazilian soil, three of the Canadian teams reached the single-elimination tournament, and fans were treated to an all-Canadian match, with Heather Bansley and Sarah Pavan defeating Jamie Broder and Kristina Valjas in the 16-team round robin event. By making it to the quarter finals, Sarah and Heather equalled the best Olympic beach volleyball performance in our country’s history with their fifth place finish at the Copacabana tournament.
The dream season for Canadian beach volleyball players came to an end a few weeks later in Toronto at the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals, where Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk reached the bronze medal game.
After Volleyball Canada’s incredible 2016, fans can expect more excitement in the new year, as the men head into Division 1 of the World League and new duos hit the court in beach.