A popular saying states that every end is a new beginning, but Sarah Pavan and Sophie Bukovec couldn’t have hoped for a better starting point for their new beach volleyball partnership.
Pavan and Bukovec excited to do big things in Doha and beyond
The Canadians will make their first appearance as partners at the Beach Pro Tour Finals
Pubblicato 08:00, 21 Jan 2023
The Canadians announced they would become partners in 2023 at the end of October, but got a much-welcomed opportunity to share the same side of the court earlier than they expected and will debut at the 2022 Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Finals in Doha, Qatar, from January 26-29.
Pavan won the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships with Melissa Humana-Paredes, while Bukovec took silver at the 2022 World Championship with Brandie Wilkerson. The new pair were awarded a wild card for the event and will compete with nine other teams at the Aspire Park sports complex at the end of the month, in the last highlight of the event’s inaugural season.
“When I found out that Sophie and I were awarded the wild card to the Finals, I was shocked and completely excited,” Pavan told Volleyball World. “We were hopeful that we would be selected, but we were very mindful to not get our hopes too high to avoid disappointment. When I saw our names on the entry list, I had a grin from ear to ear and immediately messaged our team. I think it is a nod to the success Canada has had over the last several years, in particular at the last two World Championships. We are very grateful to be included in this event.”
Besides taking part in one of the most prestigious events of the season and getting a chance to compete for a share of the massive 800,000 US Dollar prize purse, the Canadians will also have an invaluable opportunity to test themselves against the top teams in the world in their very first tournament as partners.
The other nine teams set to compete in Doha are Brazil’s Eduarda ‘Duda’ Lisboa/Ana Patricia Ramos and Carol Salgado/Barbara Seixas, the Netherlands’ Katja Stam/Raisa Schoon, Australia’s Taliqua Clancy/Mariafe Artacho, Latvia’s Tina Graudina/Anastasija Samoilova, Switzerland’s Nina Brunner/Tanja Hüberli, Germany’s Cinja Tillmann/Svenja Müller and USA’s Taryn Kloth/Kristen Nuss and Kelly Cheng/Sara Hughes.
Although they are excited by the opportunity to compete against the best, the Canadians are also aware of the difficulties they could encounter.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for our team, both from a competition standpoint, but also as an information gathering experience,” Pavan added. “Sophie and I are both fierce competitors who always aim to win, but we are fully aware that it will be the first time we step on the court together. Combining that with the fact that we will be thrown into the fire against the most elite teams in the world means that we need to be realistic and show ourselves some grace as we work into our rhythm and style as a team. This event will allow us to learn about ourselves as a team and get some high-quality competition under our belts before the Olympic race begins, but we will fight for every point we play.”
Knowing how important the 2023 Beach Pro Tour season will be, the Canadians have been working together in their country in indoor facilities since November. In the first days of 2023, they moved their training camp to Los Angeles, from where they will head to Doha to get their team officially started.
The intensive training sessions have been designed to help the two make the most of the significant height advantage they should have against most of their opponents. While the 36-year-old Pavan is one of the tallest players in international beach volleyball standing at 1.95m, the 27-year-old Bukovec eclipses most defenders with her 1.85m height.
“We are definitely a tall team, and I love it,” Pavan exclaimed. “We have a couple of things that we have been playing around with that will help us maximize our strengths, and both of us are working on implementing new pieces into our games to open up our options. I’m really excited to see how it translates into competition. Things have gone really well so far, but the best test will be adding other teams to the mix.”
For Pavan, a two-time Olympian and a veteran of ten seasons on the international beach volleyball circuit, competing at the inaugural edition of the Beach Pro Tour Finals will carry a special meaning as the Canadian blocker participated in every edition of the FIVB World Tour Finals between 2015 and 2021.
After she ended her six-year partnership with Melissa at the end of August, Pavan missed several events on the Beach Pro Tour and saw her chances of qualifying for Doha vanish. But in the end, the wild card will allow her to continue her tradition of playing in the Finals.
“When I wasn’t able to compete in the last Elite16 tournaments, I was disappointed for a number of reasons, one of them being that I was potentially losing the opportunity to earn a berth into the Finals,” she explained. “I have been quite fortunate to play in every edition of the Finals since their inception in 2015, so the fact that I get to continue that streak definitely makes this even more special.”