Pan Am Games: Men's Beach Volleyball

Canadian Beach Volleyball has a storied history at the Pan Am Games, especially when played on home soil. At the inaugural tournament at the 1999 Games in Winnipeg, Canada shocked the western hemisphere when Conrad Leinemann and Jody Holden captured Gold, beating Brazil in the final.

Fast forward 15-years later, and Canadian beach volleyball is seeing a rise once again with some historic results on the FIVB Tour. Here's what to expect this week.

Pool A

CanadaCanada
UruguayUruguay
GuatemalaGuatemala
NicaraguaNicaragua

Pool B

BrazilBrazil
MexicoMexico
VenezuelaVenezuela
ArubaAruba

Pool C

USAUnited States of America
ArgentinaArgentina
CubaCuba
St LuciaSt Lucia

Pool D

ChileChile
Puerto RicoPuerto Rico
Trinidad & TobagoTrinidad & Tobago
El SalvadorEl Savlador

It's kind of fitting Josh and Sam kick off the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games on July 14th. That day one year ago was when it all finally clicked, when the veteran Josh Binstock and the athletic Sam Schachter took the first step on proving to everyone what they'd known for a while - they could be one of the top teams in the World.

One year ago it was Gold at the NORCECA North Bay event, but no one was ready for what was to come. 

Canadian National Champions. Parana Open Champions. Doha Open Silver medallists. Porec Major Silver Medalists. 

Going from their first International medal one year ago, to being the first Canadian team to win an FIVB event since 2012, medalling at the opener of the FIVB Major Series, and finishing Top Ten at the World Championships. Yeah, you can say it's been a decent year. 

One year later, the question is weather they can get the job done while carrying the country on their backs, in the spotlight of the nation, in their hometowns none-the-less. Can the re-capture the glory that Conrad and Jody found when they captured Pan Am Gold in Winnipeg in 1999?

We won't be able to tell you the answer until July 21st, but until then, here's what you can expect from this pair. 

The Team

Canadian Beach Volleyball fans have watched Sam Schachter (Richmond Hill, On) grow up over the past few years, and have enjoyed every minute of it. From his Junior World Championship in 2010 with Garrett May (defeating Brazil's Vitor Felipe and Alvaro Filho in the Finals no-less - we'll get to the in a bit), everyone saw the potential was there, and five years later, Sam's grown into one of the most complete and dynamic players not only in Canada, but in the world. A rocket of a serve, the ability to chase down any ball, and an impressive offensive arsenal, Schachter can bring it with the best. 

One year ago Schachter was relatively unknown on the FIVB Tour, and his quick rise has definitely been aided by the veteran presence of his partner, Josh Binstock (Richmond Hill, On). His name you might have heard before. No stranger to the big stage, the 2012 London Olympian has proved he's still one of the toughest competitors in the world. One of the top blockers on the FIVb Tour, Josh's almost older-brothe-like demeanour in their partnership has helped grow Sam, but has also had an impact on his own game as well. While Josh has always been a passionate guy (must be the hockey background), but his ability to control his emotions and turn the moment when the team was struggling is a big factor in their success. 

The Opponents

We'd love to say these are in no particular order, but then we'd be lying.

Brazil Alvaro Filho & Vitor Felipe

Back together for the first time since 2010 when lost to Sam and Garrett May at the JWC in Turkey, and did not skip a beat. With three Top Ten finishes this year and a fifth-place finish at the World Championships, this team is always a threat. A smaller team, they are highly skilled and very athletic. Alvaro Filho, the defender, can chase down any ball and put them away with a fast lefty-swing. Vitor Felipe, the blocker, makes up for his lack of size in athleticism and is known for being an aggressive attacker who will swing on any ball. Both have experience playing in Canada - Vitor Felipe played at the JWC in Halifax in 2011, while Alvaro was a crowd favourite at his first Tour event in Quebec, where he finished 4th. 

Chile Marco Grimalt & Esteban Grimalt

These fiery cousins have been turning heads on the World Tour recently, most notably the two silvers they picked up in Argentina and South Africa in the fall. A 9th in St Petersburg and a 17th at the World Championships, these guys are legitimate medal threats. This isn’t their first Pan Am Games either - going 1-2 four years ago in Guadalajara. 

Cuba Nivaldo Diaz & Sergio Gonzalez

Another young team that’s been turning heads recently. They have four medals in as many events on the NORCECA Tour, and were the surprise of the World Championships, ending up 9th. For a team that’s never played a match on Tour, that’s pretty damn good. They're long and athletic

Venezuela Jackson Henriquez & Jesus Villafañe

Regular medal contenders on the CSV Tour, this team is known to make deep runs out of the qualifier on the FIVB Tour. Although, with a 17th-place finish at the WCH, they may not be in the qualifier much longer. 

Mexico Juan Virgen & Rodolfo Ontiveros

One of the most decorated teams on the NORCECA Tour, this pair has been making waves on the World Tour of late as well, picking up a 5th in St Pete’s, a best-ever finish for Mexico on the FIVB Tour, and a 17th at the World Championships. Just a couple of dudes who are uber athletic and never say die.

Puerto Rico Erick Haddock & Roberto Rodriguez

A consistent medal threat on the FIVB Tour, this team dipped their toe in the waters of the FIVB Tour this year with mixed results, but have the potential for a break-out tournament.