Sarah Pavan has wanted to compete for Team Canada since she was old enough to understand what the word “Olympics” meant. In 2019, she and partner Melissa Humana-Paredes made history by becoming Canada’s first ever world champions in beach volleyball. That victory secured their spot at Tokyo 2020, though they would also finish atop the FIVB Olympic Ranking. In Tokyo, Pavan and Humana-Paredes made it to the quarterfinals, matching Canada’s best ever Olympic result in women’s beach volleyball.
Pavan had joined the national indoor volleyball team at age 16, the youngest woman ever selected for the squad. She also played collegiately at the University of Nebraska, becoming a four-time first team All-American, winning the NCAA title in 2006, and being awarded the Honda Cup as Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year in 2007. But after the Canadian team failed to qualify for London 2012 she decided to take a risk and give the beach game a go, knowing that if she didn’t at least try to make her Olympic dream come true at Rio 2016, she would regret it for the rest of her life.
In 2013 she emailed Heather Bansley for suggestions of possible teammates. Bansley, whose former partner had retired with a knee injury, suggested herself. After two years of learning the completely different sport that shares only a name and some basic skills with indoor volleyball, they enjoyed a breakout season in 2015, reaching their first World Tour podium with their second-place finish at the Prague Open in May. They went on to earn Canada’s first ever FIVB Major Series medal for women in Porec, Croatia, finishing second. Bansley and Pavan also posted Canada’s then-best ever women’s result at the world championships with their fifth-place finish. In their Olympic debuts at Rio 2016, they made it to the quarterfinals before choosing to dissolve the partnership.
Pavan teamed up with Humana-Paredes in 2017 and they finished second in their first FIVB World Tour event together, a four-star in Rio. They had three more podiums in the 2017 season, including a five-star victory in Porec, as well as a fourth-place finish at the world championships. The momentum continued in 2018 as they became the first ever beach volleyball champions at the Commonwealth Games. There were also three more World Tour podiums, including a five-star victory in Gstaad. In addition to their world title, their 2019 season included three other World Tour podiums, highlighted by five-star gold in Vienna.
After no World Tour events in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pavan and Humana-Paredes started 2021 with a runner-up finish at the four-star Katara Cup.
A Little More About Sarah
Getting into the Sport: Started playing indoor volleyball at age 10 and beach volleyball at age 26… Both parents played and coached volleyball when she was young… Outside Interests: Graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry in 2008… Working towards a Certificate in Business at Queen’s University… Enjoys reading (always travels with her Kindle), blogging/vlogging to share her experiences, exploring local cuisines to satisfy her inner foodie, playing board games, crossword puzzles… Ambassador for Right to Play and Fast and Female… Odds and Ends: Mother Cindy and sister Rebecca were both on the national indoor team… Her mother expected to compete at Moscow 1980 before Canada boycotted the Games… Nicknames: SP, Pav… Inspired on her uncommon path by American Karch Kiraly who won Olympic gold medals in both indoor and beach volleyball… Favourite quote: “Love me or hate me, it’s one or the other. Always has been. Hate my game. My hunger. Hate my fadeaway. My swagger. Hate that I’m a veteran. A champion. Hate that. Hate it with all your heart. And hate that I’m loved for the exact same reasons.” – Kobe Bryant…
Notable International Results
Olympic Games: 2020 - 5th (Humana-Paredes); 2016 - 5th (Bansley)
Commonwealth Games: 2018 - GOLD (Humana-Paredes)
FIVB World Championships: 2019 - GOLD (Humana-Paredes); 2017 - 4th (Humana-Paredes); 2015 – 5th (Bansley); 2013 – 17th (Bansley)
FIVB World Tour Final: 2019 - 5th (Humana-Paredes); 2018 - 7th (Humana-Parades); 2017 - 4th (Humana-Paredes); 2015 - 4th (Bansley)
NORCECA Continental Championship: 2018 - 5th (Humana-Paredes)