While Copacabana Beach is a world-renowned spot for relaxation and partying, it will soon be the site of fierce competition for eight Canadians.
For the first time ever, Canada has sent a full contingent of four teams (two male, two female) to compete in Olympic beach volleyball. All four will begin play on the weekend, after training at the Beach Volleyball Arena this week.
RELATED: Four beach teams head to Rio
“Everything is top-notch and the centre court is massive and beautiful,” said Chaim Schalk. “It’s a pretty amazing setup here. We are pretty pumped.”
Schalk and partner Ben Saxton are competing in their first Olympics, after qualifying through the FIVB Olympic Ranking process earlier this summer.
“Half of the thing is just the whole process of making it here, which is amazing,” said Schalk. “Now we’ve done it; we’re prepared, we feel good.
“We are just going to play and have fun and play our style… it’s just, let the chips fall as they may.”
Also set for their Olympic debut is the team of Jamie Broder and Kristina Valjas. The team made history in 2015, winning the first-ever gold medal by a Canadian team in an FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event.
The team’s results weren’t as strong in 2016, but Broder said that’s down to trying new strategies and approaches in preparation for Rio.
“That’s ultimately what’s going to help us here,” she said. “We’ve been through a little bit of adversity this season and (it helped make us) a stronger unit together.”
Broder and Valjas play their opening match on Sunday against the Italian duo of Marta Menegatti and Viktoria Orsi Toth, a team they’ve never faced before.
While Valjas said that matchup might be a bit of a “curveball”, her partner said that ultimately, the Canadians will stay focused on controlling their own game.
“It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side (of the net),” said Broder. “We just have to take care of ourselves.”