Brandie Wilkerson and Melissa Humana-Paredes

Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson had their golden moment, finishing first at the Pro Beach Tour Elite16 in Montreal, Quebec, establishing themselves as one of the best women’s beach volleyball teams in the world.

Melissa/Brandie have been on a hot-streak lately, with a string of top-five finishes and gold at the Challenge in Jurmala, Latvia. But this Elite16 was their biggest win yet, since forming a partnership earlier this year. The team came into the tournament ranked 26th, faced three top-five teams — and toughed out a few three-setters—on their path to the championship.

“It’s never going to be easy. To go through challenges and still win, that’s the goal here,” said Wilkerson. “To think we would breeze through this thing, that’s super unrealistic. These are the top teams in the world, they’re here for a reason.”

Around noon on Sunday, in the semi-finals, Melissa/Brandie (both of Toronto, Ont.) squared off against Xue/X. Y. Xia of China. It was a solid contest, but the Canadians got the job done, beating China in three sets (21-17, 20-22, 15-12), booking a spot in the gold medal match.

In the final, Melissa/Brandie went up against Flint/Scoles of the U.S. The Canadians were dominant in the first set, winning 21-15, to the delight of a packed house at Park Jean-Drapeau. But then, the Americans bounced back, taking the second set 15-21, setting up a winner-take-all third set.

The tiebreaker came right down to the wire. Melissa played solid, passing and burying every ball that came in her direction. Then, on game point, Brandie closed the deal with a tidy block, her fifth of the match. Game, set, gold: Canada.

Humana-Paredes reflected on the tournament. “It’s the ultimate Cinderella story. Honestly, coming into this week, I don’t think we anticipated this,” she said. “We always aim to win, but to have this happen on home soil, it’s a dream come true. The crowd gave us all of the energy we needed, even when we were down, even when we weren’t feeling it. We did this for them.”

Wilkerson echoed this sentiment. “This will be in my memories forever. This is our first Elite16 gold together as a team, in front of a Canadian crowd with this much energy, this much love,” said Wilkerson. “It’s also the first time my family got to see me play live. To come together, to unlock and evolve—it’s beautiful.”

Now, looking ahead to Paris 2024, this Canadian duo will be one of the teams to beat.

Here’s how the rest of the tournament played out. On the women’s side, in the bronze medal match, Xue/X. Y. Xia beat out Stam/Schoon of the Netherlands. On the men’s side, first-ranked Mol/Sorum of Norway took home the gold, with a three-set win over Partain/Benesh of the U.S. In the third-place match, Ranghieri/Carambula won bronze, beating out Evandro/Arthur of Brazil.

A couple of other Canadian teams competed in the tournament main draw. Sarah Pavan and Molly McBain found success, finishing tied for ninth. Daniel Dearing and Sam Schachter put up a good fight in the main draw, with a gutsy performance against fourth-ranked Qatar, but didn’t make it through to the playoff round.

The SMASH Festival hosted this Elite 16 World Beach Pro Tour tournament at Parc Jean-Drapeau. This unique event combined sport, entertainment and fun!

This year, Canada hosts three Beach Pro Tour events – the just-completed Challenge event in Edmonton (July 20-23), this Elite 16 tournament in Montreal and a Futures event in Halifax in September.