Beach volleyball team Jamie Broder of Victoria, B.C. and Kristina Valjas of Toronto, Ont. made history on Sunday with a first-ever FIVB World Tour gold medal for Canadian women.
It was also the first FIVB tournament of the season, opening the Olympic beach volleyball qualification window for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.
The pair went undefeated in seven matches at the tournament. On the final day of competition, they beat US veterans Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh and her current partner, London 2012 silver medalist April Ross in the semifinal 2-1 (28-26, 14-21, 15-13). The Canadian team went on to win the final against Germany’s Chantal Laboureur and Julia Sude 2-0 (21-17, 23-21).
“Gold is the colour; we wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Broder said on fivb.com. “We battled through a lot of three sets yesterday and today. A lot of really tough opponents so it feels so good to come away on top.”
Said Valjas: “Our confidence is really up as we had so many people cheering for us, sending these messages, our families, our friends, our coach, everyone is behind us and that’s what I think helped push us through this final game.”
In the bronze medal match, defending Fuzhou Open champions Walsh and Ross left with the medal after beating China’s Wang Fan/Yue Yuan (13-21, 21-13, 15-11).
“It’s a great starting off point, I mean first tournament of the year and we’re in Olympic qualification, it’s awesome to have such a strong start and I think it’s just something we can continue to build on and use to feel confidence for future events,” said Broder.
“Congratulations to Jamie, Kristina and their coach John May,” said Volleyball Canada beach national team head coach, Steve Anderson. “All of our teams have had a great off-season and pre-season preparation, and I am excited to see their performances this year.”
Not only did Canada win gold, but two other women’s teams finished ranked fifth: Sarah Pavan of Kitchener, Ont. and Heather Bansley of Waterdown, Ont.; and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Toronto and Taylor Pischke of Winnipeg, Man.
On the men’s side Josh Binstock, a 2012 Olympian, and Sam Schachter, both of Richmond Hill, Ont., also finished fifth in China.
“The race for the Pan Ams and Rio has begun, and Jamie and Kristina have announced that Canadian beach volleyball is world class. This is a historic moment and well deserved by a hard-working and dedicated team,” said Anderson.
In its third consecutive year, the FIVB Fuzhou Open is the first double-gender FIVB Open event of the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour calendar with a purse of US$150,000.
Story and photos from the Volleyball Canada Website | Volleyball.ca