Canada continues to be superbly represented in the beach volleyball division by a team including Red Deer native Chaim Schalk.
A former Red Deer College Kings player, Schalk, and his teammate, Ben Saxton, have been creating quite a stir since the 2016 Olympic Games were launched in Rio last week.
According to the Canadian Olympic Team Official web site, “As a teenager, Schalk asked his father to invest in his future beach volleyball career by building a sand court in their backyard.
“Reluctant at the time, his father now admits the investment paid off as Schalk and partner Saxton ended the 2015 season as the top-ranked Canadian men’s team on the FIVB World Tour.
“The two Albertans teamed up near the end of the 2012 season, in part because both were in favour of spending more time training in California with the top American teams. They won their first tournament together, a NORCECA event in Chula Vista, cementing the partnership.
“Another early highlight was a fifth place finish at the 2013 World Championships in Stare Joblonki, Poland for Canada’s best ever men’s result at the global event, after defeating one of the top teams in the world, Latvia’s Jānis Šmēdiņš and Aleksandrs Samoilovs. Saxton and Schalk went on to reach their first ever FIVB World Tour podium in 2014, claiming bronze at the Parana Open in Argentina.
“They closed the season with a victory at the NORCECA continental championship. Their 2015 season included podium finishes at the Yokohama and Olsztyn Grand Slam events. They reached a Major Series podium for the first time in July 2016, taking bronze in Porec, Croatia.”
Keith Hansen, former Kings Volleyball Head Coach, said in a release that, “(Chaim) was a setter on the Kings team, but he was also an all-around great player.”
According to the release, Schalk grew up playing beach volleyball in his backyard at his family’s acreage near Red Deer, and he decided to officially pursue this side of the game in 2009, making the national team that year.
Meanwhile, Schalk has called his participation at the Olympics a dream come true.
So far this week, the pair have put up a 1-1 record in preliminary round action at Copacabana Beach, notably coming within just two points of upsetting the number-one ranked team of Šmēdiņš and Samoilovs in their opening match on Sunday night. The pair then went on to defeat Brazilians Pedro Solberg and Evandro Junior in three sets early Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, the Canadian men’s volleyball team clinched their spot for the Olympics with former Kings player, Gavin Schmitt, who has been an integral piece in the team’s success.
Schmitt and Schalk both agree that their time at RDC helped to shape their lives and their athletic careers.
“Gavin is one of the strongest players on the national team, and he was at RDC during the 2006-07 season – he actually hit the last ball to win the national title during our eight-in-a-row run,” said Hansen.
Schmitt and the Canadians kicked off the men’s tournament off in a big way, Saturday, as they upset the heavily-favoured United States team in straight sets in their opening game. The team played again on Tuesday evening but the game was not over at press time.
Both Schmitt and Schalk are back in action in Rio on Thursday, with Saxon and Schalk getting the day underway with an early-morning match with Cuba starting at 8 a.m. MST. Later on in the day, Schmitt and Team Canada will hit the court to meet with France. That one gets underway at 2:05 p.m. MST.