Canadians make the most of their time on the beach
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Jul 14, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Canadians make the most of their time on the beach

When the sun went down, the volume went up for the feature match between Canada and the Cayman Islands

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The Pan Am beach party got going Monday, and all the elements co-operated: There was an all-day blast from the sun, plus tons of sand, and world-class sport.

And when the sun went down, the volume went up for the feature match between Canada and the Cayman Islands, which almost filled the 5,000-seat Chevrolet Volleyball Centre.

Toronto’s Melissa Humana-Paredes, 22, and Winnipeg’s Taylor Pischke, 22, gave the bum’s rush to the Caymanian pair in straight sets in about 30 minutes.

“To be able to play in front of all these people is a once in a lifetime,” Humana-Paredes said after the match. “It adds a little bit of magic on the court.”

She’s not insulted that some people may think the sport is all about bikinis, good looks and glamour.

“At first glance, yeah, that’s what you see,” she said, but in time people come to realize “this sport is such a beautiful sport.”

Humana-Paredes, a communications major at York University, comes by her sport naturally. Her dad, Hernan, was a beach volleyball coach for Olympic bronze medallists John Child and Mark Heese in 1996.

At midday, at least a dozen supporters rooted for Aruba’s first-ever Pan Am beach volleyball team in a losing cause against Brazil. The sport is still emerging in the tiny island. Right now, there isn’t even a women’s team.

Nadia Daniel, 28, came to see her brother, Mitchell, who is one-half of Aruba’s team. She was joined by her boyfriend, Cor-Paul Bezemer, who now works at Queen’s University as a researcher, and family that included her mother, Mena Curiel, who is head of the volleyball association in Aruba.

Nadia’s brother, who didn’t have a coach or trainer when he began the sport five years ago, now receives government funding and can train part-time in France.

“They started themselves,” Daniel said, “and look where they are now.”

Beach volleyball was first played at the Pan Ams in 1999 in Winnipeg. The tournament runs nine days at the beach volleyball facility, which is part of the Pan Am park at Exhibition Place. Brazil won gold in both the men’s and women’s event at Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011.

There’s camaraderie among the teams: They just don’t give each other high-fives, even on points they lose, but they give hand slaps to their opponents when they change ends.

“We all get along for the most part, but it gets competitive, for sure,” six-foot-two American Kelley Larsen said after she and partner Betsi Metter kicked sand in the faces of the pair from El Salvador in straight sets.

“I wouldn’t say there’s too much trash talking,” Larsen said with a slightly wicked laugh.

But the surface the athletes play on, she suggested, is a hazard of the job. Everywhere Larsen walks, sand follows.

“My mom knows I’m home,” the California native said, “because there’s this trail of sand everywhere.”

Toronto Star

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