This summer has been a little bit different for Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes.

The reigning beach volleyball world champions didn’t see as much sun and sand because of COVID-19, but that has only increased their love and passion for the sport. You know what they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Since getting back into training and competition later in the summer, the pair recently competed in the AVP Champions Cup, finishing second overall after posting one second- and two third-place finishes in three events.

Soon after, they participated in a Q&A session on Twitter with Team Canada fans. Among the topics: how they stayed motivated while seeing their competition schedule wiped out; their goals for Tokyo 2020; their top music picks; and why they always pull down their pants before leaving a hotel room.

Training in the time of COVID-19

Sarah Pavan digs the ball next to Melissa Humana-Parades

Sarah Pavan of Canada, left, next to her teammate Melissa Humana Paredes at Beach Volleyball World Tour Major Series in Gstaad, Switzerland. (Peter Schneider/Keystone via AP)

Q: How have you been staying in shape/practising while at home/in quarantine?

MHP: During COVID-19, I didn’t have access to a beach or sand so I’ve kind of been relegated to my living room and body weight workouts. I’ve done a quite a bit of Pilates and yoga, and I took the time to kind of slow down and really just take care of my body.

SP: Melissa and I haven’t spent a lot of time together during COVID. We’ve been together during the past couple weeks, so we were training normally, but during quarantine and stay-at-home we were just doing online workouts. We actually started running, which we never do.

Q: Was there anything positive about the experience?

SP: Some of the positives from the whole experience is that we got to start exploring new projects that we never have time for and we got to connect with the volleyball community. This is our first summer at home ever so there’s so many good things that have come out of this and we are making the most of it.

Q: How do you motivate your team and yourselves to keep positive and focused, especially in crazy times like these?

SP: It’s hard to stay positive in times like these, but I think something that Melissa and I are really, really passionate about is how badly we want to win gold at the Olympics. That continues to motivate us every single day. Mel and I send each other funny videos and stuff on Instagram and we have a group chat with our whole team, so we are always staying connected. I think the important thing is coming together these past few weeks really reminded how much we love to play and how much we love our team.

Q: With the easing of restrictions in Ontario, what will your training look like over the next few months?

MHP: I’m currently in the Vancouver airport on my way to Victoria to spend my 14-day quarantine there. After that I’ll make my way over to Toronto to visit family and friends and get back into our training facility – I haven’t been there in months. It’s time I get back into the gym and put some strength on and then eventually, you know, we’ll start getting some touches and after we’ll be on the beach, which I’m very excited about.

Q: How different is training for games now compared to before the pandemic?

SP: I think the biggest difference now training for the Games compared to before the pandemic is, we just don’t have clear timelines anymore. We are a team that always has our peaking schedule set and we know exactly where our schedule is going to be so far in advance. The biggest thing is that we don’t know when our competitions are going to be anymore. So, we just have to be patient and go with the flow, which is a test of patience for sure.

Being and staying on top of the world

Volleyball players kiss their trophy after the big win

Melissa Humana-Paredes, left, and Sarah Pavan after their victory at the beach volleyball world championships in Germany. Photo credit: Beach Volleyball Major Series

Q: What are you most excited about for the Olympics in Tokyo next year?

SP: The thing that we are most excited about for the Olympics next year in Tokyo is the chance to win Canada’s first ever gold medal in beach volleyball. We’ve been working so hard for this and it would be absolutely amazing to win gold and be Canada’s first gold medallists.

Q: What’s it like to be the best in the world at something?

MHP: Being the best in the world at beach volleyball or at anything is very special because it’s the combination of all your hard work and it’s all the sacrifice and it’s a title that you have for life. No matter what happens, I will always be a world champion, and no one can take that away from me.

Q: What is your pre-competition ritual (i.e. snack, music, mantra)?

SP: I’m very big on routine, so I always make sure to do the same thing before every match. I wake up the same time before, I eat the same amount of time before, my stretching routine, warmup routine, everything is same. But I would say that one thing that Mel and I do that’s very strange is, before we leave our hotel room, we always pull our pants down to make sure we’re wearing the same coloured bottoms. We’ve had one mishap once and it was a disaster so now we always make sure to do that.

Q: Where is the strangest place you’ve gotten to travel as a volleyball player?

MHP: One of the stranger, more unlikely places I’ve played beach volleyball in is in Ostrava, Czech Republic. It was essentially a steel town and we played in a very industrial steel factory where they just like trucked sand in and created beach volleyball courts. But you looked around and there was just steel piping everywhere.

Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes hold the Canadian flag over their heads

Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana Paredes are the top team at the FIVB World Tour stop in Edmonton. Photo: FIVB

Q: What’s your favourite Team Canada memory wearing the maple leaf?

MHP: One of my favourite Team Canada memories and wearing the maple leaf is the day that Sarah and won our very first gold medal in Porec, Croatia and it was on Canada Day. I remember standing on top of the podium listening to the national anthem and then fireworks started going and it was like our very own special Canada Day celebrating the best win of our career at that time.

Q: Which form of the sport, beach or indoor, do you find is hardest on the body? Also, which is the harder to train for?

SP: Indoor volleyball is definitely harder on your body because of the pounding on the hard surface that your joints take. You tend to feel a lot more pain in your knees and ankles. Beach is definitely harder cardio-wise. Two people running in the sand is definitely more of a challenge cardiovascular-wise. I would say beach is harder to train for because there’s just two of you in the sand.

Twitter and ramen and Weezer, oh my

Melissa Humana-Paredes (right) and Sarah Pavan in action at the 2017 Porec Major Series event. Photo: FIVB.

Q: Who’s your favourite follow on Twitter? Who’s one person you wish would follow you?

MHP: My favourite person to follow on Twitter without a doubt is Chrissy Teigen. [She is] hands down the realest, funniest person ever and I wish she would follow me back because that would mean that we would be friends. Chrissy, you know I’m over here.

SP: Mel and I have the same answer for this one so in an attempt to keep it spicy and interesting I am going to mix it up. I really love following the Players Tribune. I love reading stories written from an athlete’s perspective, and just the different experiences and ways of thinking about things and how different athletes move through their careers is so inspiring. I love reading the articles.

Q: Which Team Canada athlete are you dying to meet?

MHP: Okay, this is a really tough question. If I could meet any other Team Canada athlete, I would say either Mark McMorris or Bianca Andreescu because she’s a badass, so is he.

Q: Who are your favourite artists and genre of music?

SP: Melissa is the big concert goer on our team, but I do enjoy music. I will say I love Taylor Swift but I am a ‘90s kids so some of my favourite bands are Beastie Boys, Blink 182, Weezer, Third Eye Blind … Something that’s like edging into the classic rock – which I don’t know how it’s classic rock yet because it’s from the ‘90s. I refuse to think that I’m that old, but those are some of my favourite bands.

Q: Sushi or ramen?

SP: I’m probably not going to make a lot of friends with this answer and if you love ramen, I am happy for you, but I’m really not a fan so I’m going to have to say sushi all the way.