Sarah Pavan on accepting change and finding rhythm


LOS ANGELES, United States, June 18, 2020 – Sarah Pavan and her partner Melissa Humana-Paredes were about to begin their seasons in March when the pandemic imposed changes to the international calendar, which is yet to resume. And it was a blow for the 33-year-old blocker.


“I’m not someone who likes changes, so the first couple of weeks were difficult,” she reflected in an interview with Beach Inside’s Nils Köpke. “We were about to go to Cancun and start our season and then the Olympics got postponed. I wasn’t in a good place mentally in the first weeks, but I’ve since found peace with the situation.”


Pavan’s frustration is easy to understand. The former indoor player and Humana-Paredes were just a few months away from their first Olympic appearance as a team and they were about to head to Tokyo among the favourites to compete for medals this summer.


The team, which was formed at the end of 2016, was fresh from its best season to date, having won the FIVB World Championships, the Vienna Major and an FIVB World Tour three-star tournament in Edmonton, Canada last season, results that took them to the top of the world rankings.


“I would have loved to play the Olympics this year,” she acknowledged. “We had very good momentum, we were headed in a very good direction and even seeing how we were playing during pre-season, we were playing at a very high level. We were really ready for the 2020 season and I had this feeling it was going to be amazing, so to have it stop and the Olympics postponed was really difficult. I know that our volleyball skills won’t go away and that our relationship is very strong and I trust that. I really think we will still be ready next year and maybe this is just a great opportunity for us to become better at things.”


One thing Pavan and the 27-year-old Humana-Paredes won’t have to worry about is securing their spots in Tokyo. Unlike most of the other beach volleyball teams in the world, the Canadians have secured a berth for their country at the Games with their World Championship victory in Hamburg last year.


With the Olympic qualification process extended to June 2021, the Canadians will be able to use the months ahead of them to strengthen their team for the Games.


“We’re definitely very lucky to be in the position we are,” Pavan added. “Last year was very strange because some teams who usually rank really high had injuries and missed some important tournaments, so the ranking right now is kind of not what most people expected. We’re very happy that we have our spot in the Olympics. I know that many teams are really stressed right now and I’m just very grateful that this is something we don’t have to think about. We obviously want to improve our rankings for the Olympics, but just knowing we’re going no matter what is nice.”  



Their victory in Hamburg was the apex of the season last year for the team, which was formed at the end of 2016 and has played in 33 World Tour tournaments, winning six of them and securing five other medals. But their journey has had its ups and downs, which Pavan remembers well.


“When Melissa and I started together, we started very strong. We entered our second season as the number one team in the world and that was a position we’d never been in before. I think we took a deep dive as a team as we tried to figure out how to navigate that position. The 2018 season was disappointing for us and we learned a lot of lessons, so coming to 2019 we really wanted to improve on that and to solidify our place at the top. Our goal was to win the World Championship and it was amazing that we did that, but aside from the motivation of how disappointed we were the year before, I think our relationship as a team got better. Melissa and I really settled into a place of comfort and trust in one another and that really came through in the most difficult moments.”


The trust they have developed is also helpful right now. The Canadians not only have to work individually to maintain their form, but are also doing so while in different countries. While Pavan lives in Los Angeles, from where she combines her workouts with online volleyball classes, Humana-Paredes is back home in Canada. But they are adamant they’re always heading in the same direction.


“We have a group chat, so we talk there and send each other funny pictures we find online, but most of the times when we go separate ways we let each other live their lives,” the blocker remarked. “Melissa has her own schedule and we’re just enjoying this time with our partners. We trust each other that we’re doing the best we can to stay fit.”