Toronto, Canada, September 12, 2016 - Tuesday will be a special day for Heather Bansley and the Canadian Olympian will be seeking to end the day with a Beach Volleyball “present” as she competes with Brandie Wilkerson in this week’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals on Polson Pier.
Bansley, who will turn 29 Tuesday, and Wilkerson will meet compatriots Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes in a Canadian country quota match at 5 p.m. (Toronto time) on the dockside courts on the shore of Lake Ontario to determine the 12th and final spot in the women’s field for the US$500,000 SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals.
As the fifth of five SWATCH Major Series events in 2016 with $3.7-million in prize money, the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals will also feature men’s competition. The event opens “officially” Wednesday with pool play followed by elimination rounds Friday for women and Saturday for men.
With $100,000 being awarded to the winning teams in each gender, the women’s semi-finals and medal matches will be played Saturday morning and afternoon, respectively. The men’s competition will follow the same “final four” format Sunday as the winning purse is the largest in Beach Volleyball history.
A month ago on iconic Copacabana at the Rio 2016 Olympics, Bansley and Pavan were competing together where the Canadian pair won four of five matches before losing 2-0 (21-14, 21-14) in a 35-minute quarter-final to eventual “Summer” Games gold medal champions Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany.
When Bansley and Pavan announced their “split” late last month, the representatives from the BeachMajors Company that own the SWATCH Major Series and operate the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals agreed to allow the Canadian Olympians an opportunity to compete with different partners for the final berth in the 12-team women’s field for this week’s event.
The winner of the Canadian country quota match will fill the No. 4 spot in the seeding and will compete in Pool D starting Wednesday with an opening match at 3:30 p.m. against Laura Giombini and Marta Menegatti of Italy, who placed ninth at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after winning two of five matches with an elimination setback to April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings of the United States.
Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude of Germany will be the final pool play opponent Thursday for the Canadian country quota winner at 5:30 p.m. Host Canada will have a second women’s team in the competition as Jamie Broder and Kristina Valjas will be competing in Pool C along with Rio Olympians Talita Antunes/Larissa Franca of Brazil and Elsa Baquerizo/Liliana Fernandez of Spain.
Broder and Valjas, the only women’s team from Canada to win an FIVB World Tour event with a 2015 gold medal finish in China, placed ninth in the Rio Olympics with a 2-2 record after being eliminated by Bansley and Pavan in the “Sweet 16”. Broder and Valjas will meet Talita and Larissa at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and concluded Pool C action at 12:30 p.m. Thursday against Elsa and Liliana.
Canada will also have two pairs in the 12-team men’s field, including Ben Saxton/Chaim Schalk (Pool D) and Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter (Pool C). Both teams competed in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with Saxton and Schalk upsetting Evandro Goncalves and Pedro Solberg of Brazil in pool play before being eliminated by eventual bronze medal winners Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen of The Netherlands.
Binstock and Schachter failed to win in Rio, but extended Alison and Bruno (21-19, 22-20) before dropping their next two matches in three sets to Austrians Clemens Doppler/Alexander Horst and Italians Adrian Carambula/Alex Ranghieri.
Saxton and Schalk will again play Evandro and Pedro during the pool rounds with a 3 p.m. group match Friday. The Canadians will also meet Americans Tri Bourne/John Hyden in a Pool D match at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Binstock and Schachter open play Wednesday with a 5:30 p.m. meeting with Phil Dalhausser/Nick Lucena of the United States followed by a 2 p.m. Friday Pool C confrontation with Piotr Kantor and Bartosz Losiak of Poland.
Four of the six medal winners from the Beach Volleyball completion at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be participating in the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals. Alison and Bruno headline Pool A with group pairings against Lombardo Ontiveros/Juan Virgen of Mexico and Carambula/Ranghieri.
Brouwer and Meeuwsen will be in Pool B with Aleksandrs Samoilovs/Janis Smedins of Latvia and Grzegorz Fijalek/Mariusz Prudel of Poland. The Dutch pair dropped a 2-1 (21-17, 21-23, 16-14) semi-final decision in 56 minutes to Alison and Bruno in Rio last month.
Ludwig and Walkenhorst will compete in Pool B with Joana Heidrich/Nadine Zumkehr of Switzerland and Ana Gallay/Georgina Klug of Argentina. Rio women’s bronze medal winners Ross and Walsh Jennings will be in Pool A along with Isabelle Forrer/Anouk Verge-Depre of Switzerland (8) and Louise Bawden/Taliqua Clancy of Australia. The Americans defeated both teams in the Rio Olympics with the Swiss win in pool play and the Australian victory in the quarter-finals.
Brazil dominated the podium at the inaugural SWATCH FIVB World Tour Finals last October in the United States as Fort Lauderdale Beach in south Florida hosted the 2015 event. Alison and Bruno captured the men’s gold medal by defeating Dalhausser and Lucena in the finals with Evandro and Pedro defeating Brouwer and Meeuwsen in the bronze match.
Talita and Larissa defeated Ludwig and Walkenhorst for the women’s title in Fort Lauderdale with reigning FIVB world champions Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas of Brazil beating Bansley and Pavan for the bronze medal. Agatha and Barbara, the Rio Olympic silver medal winners, ended their partnership following the Copacabana quadrennial and elected not to compete this week.