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2016-07-21 11:24:00 CET

More Than Sports: Gunfight with a spoon

For the first time in history, Canada will have four beach volleyball teams at the Olympics. Sam Schachter booked his last-minute-ticket, but before departing, he has to overcome a mental conflict in Klagenfurt...

When we talk about trying to get to the Olympics, there are lots of teams who really can tell you a good story about it. One such story concerns Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter, who finally booked their ticket to Rio de Janeiro at the fourth attempt. They missed the direct qualification by just 450 points – but made it to the final of the NORCECA Continental Cup, however they had to watch Cuba celebrate the qualification. Then, in Sochi, they managed to finally secure the spot for Canada at the Continental Final together with Sam Pedlow and Grant O’Gorman. On Saturday, the two teams entered the last battle, and Binstock/Schachter succeeded at last by winning in three sets against their countrymen.

“The whole qualification process was crazy, so stressful,” says Sam. “The Olympics will be crazy now. I am super excited and kind of don’t know what to expect.” A lifelong dream is coming true for the 26-year-old, who got inspired by beach volleyball when he watched John Child and Mark Heese winning bronze at the Olympics 1996 – the first and only Olympic medal won by a Canadian beach volleyball team.

Beach volleyball boost in the homeland of ice hockey

Ten years later, the chances of a second medal for Canada couldn’t be better. For the first time ever, they have four teams competing: Sarah Pavan/Heather Bansley, Ben Saxton/Chaim Schalk and Jamie Lynn Broder/Kristina Valjas will accompany Binstock/Schachter on the Copacabana. Chiropractor Dr. Josh Binstock, 35, is the only one of the eight players who has already competed at the Olympics, back in 2012. “There has been a little bit of an age gap after John Child and Mark Heese,” Sam explains. He also thinks the development of beach volleyball in Canada has a lot to do with Lennard Krapp. The German started in 2009 to implement a new development program. Now, he is personal coach of Sam and Josh. “He did a fantastic job,” Sam says.

Four attempts, one Olympic spot for Sam Schachter (left) and Josh Binstock. Photocredit: Joerg Mitter.Four attempts, one Olympic spot for Sam Schachter (left) and Josh Binstock. Photocredit: Joerg Mitter.

The Canadians hope that some good results at the Olympics can boost beach volleyball in their country. “There wasn’t that much funding,” explains Sam. Normally, the athletes have to pay everything on their own. “Nobody traveled the FIVB World Tour with a coach or even a physio or doctor,” says Sam. “It’s like going into a gun fight with a spoon, and we didn’t even have a knife.” In Canada, ice hockey rules the roost – and there is not much room for other sports. But beach volleyball is catching up: In September, the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals will be held in Toronto for the first time. “I am so excited and grateful that the Swatch Beach Volleyball Majors Series picked Toronto,” Sarah Pavan says. “That will be a great inspiration for the Canadian people.” Sam, who runs On2 Volleyball, a business helping youth and adult players to reach their highest level in beach volleyball, is sure that the stadium will be filled. “At the Pan American Games, beach volleyball is one of the most attractive sports, it was amazing,” he says.

Klagenfurt is a must-do

At the Olympics Josh and Sam will have to overcome some big names in their group: They play the Italians Ranghieri/Carambula, the Austrians Doppler/Horst, but most exciting for them is the first match against number one seed Alison/Bruno. “We haven’t beaten them yet, but the Olympics is a perfect moment to start,” Sam says. But he thinks all of the matches which have put them under pressure during the last few weeks have been a perfect preparation for this moment. “Alison/Bruno did not have that much pressure during this season,” he said. “Playing at home in the first match of the tournament, anything can happen.”

Sam (left) and Josh can beat any team, as they proved last year by winning the silver medal at Poreč Major.Sam (left) and Josh can beat any team, as they proved last year by winning the silver medal at Poreč Major.

At the A1 Major Klagenfurt, they won’t meet because the Brazilians have already started their preparations in Rio. Pavan/Bansley fly off to Rio on Sunday, so will miss out on Klagenfurt too. “We definitely want to play in Klagenfurt – the one reason is that I have never played there before,” Sam says. Thinking of a Major, he has one thing in mind – and that is not the silver medal he and Josh won in Poreč last year. “It’s the desserts at the Majors,” Sam raves. “I am a little bit in a conflict. I want to play well and win the tournament in Klagenfurt, but, if I am out, maybe, I could finally try some of these delicious deserts!” This mental challenge is maybe even tougher than qualifying for the Olympics – but maybe a spoon could help this time. 

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