Two of Canada’s strongest medal contenders will be competing on the beach in Tokyo even though they spent the better part of the last year away from a beach and away from each other.
Beach volleyball duo Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes won gold at the world championships in 2019 and came in to 2020 ranked No. 1 in the world. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and they were away from each other in different cities in different countries, and not training as they usually would in Hermosa beach, Calif. The longest period they’ve gone away from the sport and away from each other proved challenging with the uncertainty of if or when the Olympics were going to happen.
Now they’ve been able to reconnect on and off the court, and have regained that No. 1 status heading into Tokyo. They’ll take the court at 11:00 p.m. EDT on Friday to start their pursuit of a gold medal.
I caught up with them ahead of the Games to learn how they’ve overcome the obstacles put in their way in what was a trying 2020 season.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
SPORTSNET: You were one of the first to qualify back in 2019. What has this purgatory been like where the Games were deferred in 2020, and now we’re finally here in 2021?
Melissa Humana-Paredes: It’s been a long process from when we’ve qualified to now — so long almost that I forgot the privilege and the luxury and the meaning behind what it meant until this last month, seeing all the other teams finally qualify. It hit me. It was like, “Oh my gosh, we’re so close — we’re there.” It’s been such a long journey. Having the luxury of being qualified for so long was great at the time, especially during the uncertainty.
And it forced us to find another goal to go after, which was to head into the Olympics the No. 1–ranked team, which we did accomplish, which was fantastic. It feels like it happened so long ago that I’m feeling those emotions all over again this last month as we head into the Olympics. It’s such a meaningful experience. I’m so proud of how far we have come because I think there was a time where we felt it was a little unfair [because] we had such great momentum.
We felt we were in the best shape heading into 2020, and then everything kind of got taken away. And so, to regain that confidence and regain that momentum means a lot. But it was a lot of hard work.
What were some of the specific difficulties that you had to work through given the last 18 months was anything but normal?
Sarah Pavan: Melissa and I were in separate countries actually for most of the pandemic, so when it started in March , we were naive enough to think that we would be reunited in a couple of weeks. Mel headed back to Canada. I stayed in the L.A. area where we usually train. And that couple of weeks became several months, so that was a challenge. We just we didn’t train on sand together really from March until January. And then we had the added…
Read More: Pavan, Humana-Paredes looking to make history in Tokyo 2021-07-23 16:22:00