It wasn’t exactly an audacious start, was it? September 12, 2016. The first match of Melissa Humana-Paredes’ and Sarah Pavan’s partnership: A country quota against Brandie Wilkerson and – who else? – Pavan’s former partner, Heather Bansley, in Toronto, no less, the training center for the Canadian national team, where Pavan has played something of a revolutionary role.
She did not, however, play that role on September 12 of 2016. On that day, her and Humana-Paredes, an affable young defender of 23 years at the time, lost, 21-23, 13-21.
They wondered, almost incredulously, if they could feel such an emotion at the time, why a reporter had reminded them of that loss. He had reminded them in the moments after they had won the World Championship. It was Canada’s first. A momentous achievement not just for two individuals carving out history in a sport rich in it, but for a nation that is rapidly creating a foothold in a space traditionally dominated by countries south of the Canadian border.
“Why would you remind us of that?” they wondered, simultaneously.
Because it makes the narrative that much sweeter, the process that much more real. There is no relating to a story with a smooth beginning, steep curve in the middle and a World Championship at the end. They know it, too, even if they didn’t want to relive that country quota loss quite so soon after reaching a new pinnacle for Canadian beach volleyball.
“Every failure,” Pavan said, “has led to this moment. Nobody sees the tough moments.”
What most see is that Humana-Paredes and Pavan are currently doing for Canada, on their on relative scale, what Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May Treanor once did for the United States: They’re writing their own country’s history.
It was at Gstaad, where the best players in the world are currently competing, a year ago where Pavan and Humana-Paredes claimed Canada’s first major title. Didn’t even lose a match, those Canadians, dethroning the countries that laid the foundation of beach volleyball’s traditional powers that be: 21-15, 21-15 over the United States, 14-21, 21-12, 15-13 over Brazil, 21-17, 12-21, 17-15 over Germany. Only months before that, they had become the first Canadian team to win a Commonwealth Games.
It was last June when Humana-Paredes said, on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, that “we have so much more that we need to improve on and that we can improve on and I think our potential – it seems limitless right now.”
Prophetic words. It hasn’t all been pretty, and they knew it wouldn’t. Pavan knew she was taking a chance on Humana-Paredes then, who had been relatively unproven at the time. She knew the potential upside, an upside that is now paying dividends in the form of history, of major titles, of World Championships.
“It happened much quicker than either of us expected,” Pavan said on that episode a year ago, and those same words ring true a year later. “It’s nice to see the grit and the fire of not being satisfied with making one semifinal or one podium or whatever.”
And so they’ll continue to remain unsatisfied. So long as reporters continue to remind them of their humble beginnings, if not only to show them just how far they’ve come.
“The things we have overcome this week, last week, this year, in the last two years, three years and now we’re world champions,” Humana-Paredes said. “I have no words.”
No need for words when you have history.