Rio-bound beach team scores bronze before Games

Rio-bound Saxton and Schalk reach podium in Klagenfurt

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Klagenfurt, Austria, July 31, 2016 – Just a week before Canada’s Ben Saxton (Calgary, AB) and Chaim Schalk (Red Deer, AB) make their Olympic debut on the sands of Copacabana, they picked up a FIVB World Tour bronze Sunday after a three-set win over Bartosz Losiak and Michal Bryl of Poland at the US$800,000 A1 Major Klagenfurt.

Seeded third at the tournament, Saxton and Schalk claimed the $32,000 third-place prize by defeating the 11th-seeded Polish 2-1 (23-21, 17-21, 15-12) in a 53-minute bronze medal match before a crowd of 8,000 fans.

The bronze-medal finish was the Canadians second this season as Saxton and Schalk advanced to the podium earlier this month at the Porec Major in Croatia. The pair defeated Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins in the third-place match July 3 in Porec, and the Latvians gained revenged earlier Sunday with a 2-0 (21-16, 21-18) semi-final.

The 24-year old Losiak and 21-year old Bryl, who played once before in the 2014 FIVB under-23 world championships, won their first five matches of the A1 Major Klagenfurt before dropping two contests on Sunday.

On becoming the first Canadian men’s or women’s team to medal in the 18-year FIVB history of playing in the Austrian city, Saxton said: “Klagenfurt itself is a special tournament, like the best fans, it’s the biggest event basically. It’s really nice to prove to ourselves that we can medal at a tournament of this caliber especially right before Rio.”

A second bronze medal finish before the Rio was also special for the Canadians. “Porec was awesome and Klagenfurt had the same fans, and I feel like we actually gained a little bit of momentum with them because it seemed they were on our side for a while finally toward the end, which was great,” said Schalk.

“Klagenfurt was an amazing experience for us,” he continued. “Playing in front of a massive crowd during crucial matches was the perfect way to prepare for Rio. We are excited to keep the momentum going next week at the Olympics.”

The excitement won’t end in Rio. This September, Toronto will host the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals, Sept. 13 to 18.

Other Canadian results:
17th :  Humana-Paredes & Pischke; Broder & Valjas
25th :  Binstock & Schachter; Pedlow & O’Gorman

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