Scoles/Flint (USA) vs. Melissa/Brandie (CAN) - Final 1st Place #6140428

The victory in Montréal has been the highlight of Melissa and Brandie's partnership so far

Beginning a new partnership right before the start of the qualification period for the Olympic Games is always a risky move, but Melissa Humana-Paredes and Brandie Wilkerson’s decision to join forces has immediately paid off for the two.

Partners for less than a year, the Canadians have already experienced great success together on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour and will have the opportunity to take the next (big) step in their partnership at the 2023 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship, from October 6-15, in Tlaxcala, Mexico.

  • Watch the 2023 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship live on VBTV.

Their decision to share the same side of the court, announced last October, generated a lot of optimism in their Canadian fans - and for good reason. After all, Melissa and Brandie had enjoyed great success with their previous partners, making it to the Olympics and earning medals at the World Championship, and seemed, at least on paper, great fits for each other, on and off the court.

If talent was never an issue for the new team, the timing of their union could be, as the Canadians knew they would have to find their rhythm as partners right off the bat with the Olympic qualification period beginning in January and teams from all over the world battling for the coveted spots in Paris.

Their start has been as promising as they could have hoped for, with top-five finishes in each of their first six Beach Pro Tour events and three medals won, including victories at the Jurmala Challenge and the Montréal Elite16, this one in front of their home fans.

“The biggest challenge for us heading into the Olympic qualification year as a new team was to not only get our rhythm nailed down, our systems in place and find consistency in our play but also to perform and execute at a high level to gain precious Olympic points,” Melissa reflected. “We knew what we both could individually bring to the team, but it was important to mesh together. I think things started developing quite quickly for us, we put a lot of work in the months heading into the season and we have met a lot of our goals for the year thus far. We’ve built a great team around us and are definitely happy with the direction we're going.”

Among the keys to the team’s immediate success, besides their tremendous amount of work, Melissa believes is the long-standing relationship the two have. Brandie and her were college teammates at York University more than a decade ago and have maintained a strong friendship since then, despite being opponents on the sand.

The two, who spend most of their season training in the United States, were also able to get one of the most accomplished coaches in the sport to work with them, veteran Marcio Sicoli, who has multiple Olympic medals in his resumé, including gold at the London 2012 Games with Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor.

The Olympics are the ultimate goal for Melissa and Brandie and although they are on pace to qualify via the Olympic Rankings, currently sitting in sixth place in the list, the Canadians know that a victory at the World Championship would put them much closer to Paris as it would earn their country a spot in the Games.

That path was the one that took Melissa to her first Olympic appearance in Tokyo two years ago as former partner Sarah Pavan and her triumphed at the World Championship in Hamburg, in 2019, and qualified Canada. Brandie was also close to becoming a world champion last year, but ended up taking silver with Sophie Bukovec.

“That was and still is one of the most epic feelings I have felt in the sport,” Melissa said about her title in 2019. “That victory afforded us the privilege to focus on seeding and directly preparing for the Olympics rather than focusing on getting the minimum results needed just to qualify. It’s tremendously helpful that both of us have that experience of going the distance at the World Championship, both making the finals. It’s a long tournament and you need to have strategies to withstand it and I trust we both know how to do that. It would be pretty historic to do it again.”

The Canadians were drawn into Pool D and will start their World Championship campaign against Czechia’s Barbora Hermannová/Marie-Sara Štochlová, Paraguay’s Erika Bobadilla/Michelle Valiente and Morocco’s Imane Zeroual/Mahassine Siad.

Besides high-level matches during the ten days of action, the Canadians also expect an exciting party-like atmosphere at the stands, as has been the case on the multiple times Mexico has hosted international events over the last five years.

“All I know is that the Mexican fans will show up, they always do,” Melissa remarked. “It’s always such a pleasure playing in Mexico and I’m so excited to be back in that environment. The food is great, the music is great and the people are lovely. Of course, the World Championship is the tournament we have been preparing for so it’s an important event for us to perform well at and our sights are set high.”