: Canada will have a second team in men’s Olympic beach volleyball this summer after a thrilling afternoon saw it win its semi-final over Venezuela at the FIVB World Continental Cup Tournament in Sochi, Russia, .
The teams of Josh Binstock/Sam Schachter and Grant O’Gorman/Sam Pedlow needed a golden set after splitting their respective matches with the Venezuelan teams. But as they did in the quarterfinals, O’Gorman and Pedlow were in for the winner-take-all set and beat Rolando Hernandez and Jose Gregorio Gomez 15-11 to start Canada’s celebrations.
“We knew this tournament was going to be a challenge with everyone hoping to book the last two spots to Rio,” said Pedlow. “We came in just trying to play steady and build momentum as the event went on. I thought we did a great job of playing free and just going for it when the opportunities presented themselves.”
Binstock and Schachter, both of Richmond Hill, Ont., were up first and started strong but lost in three sets (21-13, 21-19, 15-13) to Hernandez and Gomez. O’Gorman, of Scarborough, Ont., and Pedlow, from Barrie, Ont., forced the golden set with a 2-0 win over Jesus Villafañe and Jackson Henriquez.
The victory sees Canada with a maximum four teams over the men’s and women’s competition, joining Brazil, the United States, and the Netherlands as the only nations with their maximum player quota qualified.
“At the beginning of this event I asked our athletes to dig down deep and show everyone what ‘Canadian Grit’ looked like,” said beach head coach Steve Anderson, who credited all the athletes, coaches and staff in Sochi. “This was a real show of Canadian Grit!”
This was the final opportunity for these two teams to qualify after they lost to Cuba in a similar event at the NORCECA Continental Cup recently.
It was a tough lesson on that occasion and one that led to success on the beaches in Russia.
“I think the experience of not qualifying in Mexico gave us leverage to leave it all on the court here in Russia,” said Anderson. “With the tough pool we had and a gutsy performance by the Venezuelan team, we needed to trust ourselves and the work that we have been doing over the last three years.”
These two teams will now go head-to-head in North Bay, Ont., on to determine who gets the one berth to join Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk at the Copacabana Beach in Rio in August.
Whoever wins that one-match playoff next week will slot into Pool A at the Olympic competition. The Olympic draw took place and the spot that Canada has earned will be slotted into a pool that features teams from Brazil, Italy, and Austria.