Argentina and Brazil prevail in medal round of beach volleyball at Pan Am Games

One of the favorites in the gold medal conversation, Brazil faced an upset in the semis by eventual gold medalists Argentina. Heading into the gold medal match, Argentina nearly faced their own upset, facing a very talented Cuban team.

Despite winning the first set by a 21-17 tally, Argentina endured a 24-minute long set that saw them lose by two points to Cuba in the second. Bouncing back from the loss and the windy conditions, Argentina only required 16 minutes to dispose of the Cubans in the third and final set.

In service, Cuba’s Lianma Flores had 21 attempts and 1 ace, while teammate Leila Martinez registered 25 attempts and 2 aces. Of note, Martinez would have a game high 18 digs. Argentina’s Ana Gallay would also have 25 attempts (and 1 ace), but teammate Georgina Klug exceeded them all with 29 attempts. Both would provide 12 digs, part of a balanced attack.

In the bronze medal matchup, the promising Canadian team of 22 year-old Taylor Pischke and 23 year-old partner Melissa Humana-Paredes were defeated by the Brazilian team of Liliane Maestrini and Carolina Horta. Of note, Brazil only needed 17 minutes to take the first set by a score of 21-9, while 20 minutes was required to complete the sweep against Canada, taking the second set by a 21-14 margin.

Horta would log 25 attempts, more than Pischke and Humana-Paredes combined (13 and 11). In addition, Horta had 10 digs, which matched the total of the Canadians, while her 6 service aces topped all competitors in the bronze medal match.

Pischke, who was a former star in the indoor game with the University of Manitoba had lamented that Brazil had successfully kept them outside of their game. Compounded by the windy conditions, and possibly still upset over the loss to Cuba in the semifinals, it made winning very difficult on this day.

For host country Canada, a podium finish looked highly possible. Winning their first four consecutive matches (against Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Costa Rica), Pischke and Humana-Paredes were establishing themselves as favorites to reach the gold medal game. As a side note, they had not even lost a set until their semi-final defeat against Cuba.

Displaying great sportsmanship, Humana-Paredes returned immediately after the match and acknowledged the fCanadian faithful, thanking them for their support throughout the Games. Had they managed to defeat Brazil, they would have made history as the first Canadian female duo to capture a medal in beach volleyball at the Pan Am Games.

Their defeat signifies the fourth time that Canada has advanced to the semi-finals of beach volleyball at the Pan Am Games, only to emerge without a podium finish. Considering their youth, their skills should only improve, ensuring that the elusive medal shall be proudly placed around their necks at the next Pan Am Games.

Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty in Sport Issue captures the essence with several captivating athletes

With photo shoots ranging throughout Canada and a rigorous five day shoot in Las Vegas, Sportsnet Magazine released its second annual Beauty in Sport issue. Although some critics could dismiss the publication as competition for the ESPN Body Issue, the reality is that both give the opportunity to spotlight female athletes who toil in anonymity for little recognition.

As Sportsnet is a Canadian periodical published by Rogers, the athletes featured between the covers are all Canadian. With 28 athletes featured, 19 are female. While even the most dedicated sports fan would have difficulty identifying the names of the female athletes (and the sport they compete in), their beauty and sex appeal is only part of the package.

The one common factor among all athletes is injuries, and bumps and bruises were evident with some of the athletes. X-Games world champion Kelsey Serwa arrived with a swollen knee due to surgery. Canadian soccer sweethearts Kaylyn Klye and Emily Zurrer both had scrapes up to their thighs.

In being an athlete, the commitment involved takes great desire, and the discipline and dedication required is a unique quality. Their hard work and character displays a very strong, rugged yet admirable inner beauty that makes them role models for all athletes, male or female.

While publisher Steve Maich acknowledged that it was different working with athletes because they were not models, he was also quick to acknowledge that all the athletes were likeable people. Although many of the female athletes are not household names, there was a few that certainly left their mark in the world of sport.

Competing in the cross-country mountain biking competition at London 2012, Brooklin, Ontario’s Emily Batty was the cover girl for the issue. The blonde beauty did not medal at London, but she certainly captured the hearts and minds of many sports fans with her magnetic smile on the cover.

Three females were gold medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games; Kallie Humphries, Tessa Virtue and Meaghan Mikkelson. While all three come from very different sporting backgrounds – bobsleigh, ice dancing and ice hockey – all three are authentic Canadian heroes.

Mikk Meaghan Mikkelson

Another trio of heroes highlighted the females featured in the Beauty of Sport. A tantalizing trio of members from Canada’s soccer team that gained bronze at the 2012 London Summer Games was photographed in Las Vegas. Featuring Kaylyn Klye, Lauren Sesselmann and Emily Zurrer, all three donned their swimsuits while a dolphin would leap in the background behind them.

Rugby teammates Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters also exchanged their shorts and jerseys for swimsuits. Mervin, 31 and Waters, 30 are also members of the British Columbia provincial rugby team. The dynamic duo was photographed together at the MGM Grand and the Neon Museum.

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Of note, Mervin is accustomed to the camera. Having played with the national team since 2004, she was also part of a nude calendar in 2012 that featured members of Canada’s women’s rugby team.

While she leaves enough for the imagination, it is important to emphasize that Swervin Mervin (as she is affectionately known) is more than just beautiful. There is an even greater beauty beneath the surface. Having transitioned from 15s to 7s, she spends a remarkable five hours a day in training. She is an empowering woman whose great sense of teamwork, assistance with summer camps and coaching at the University of Victoria comprise makes her a role model for young women looking to get into sport.

Of all the athletes that ventured down to Las Vegas, the most unique may have been Summer Mortimer.
Mortimer Summer Mortimer

After a trampoline accident caused significant damage to the bones in her feet, she displayed great courage by learning to swim again. Having won four medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, she was one of Canada’s sweethearts at the event. Along with five world records in para-swimming, she was also named an Athlete Ambassador for the 2015 Toronto Parapan Games. Appropriately, she grew up near Toronto in Burlington. At 20 years old, not only does she conduct herself with a quiet dignity and grace that makes her an admirable athlete, but she was one of the youngest athletes featured in the publication.

While she is the first paralympic athlete to appear in the Beauty of Sport, it is worth noting that the ESPN Body Issue has also featured physically challenged athletes. As Swimming World Magazine stated in a review of Mortimer appearing in the issue, athletes are not only a vision of health, but these kinds of photo shoots promote a healthy lifestyle and set a positive example.

Six other athletes were photographed at Las Vegas. Among the group, it included volleyball player Claire Hanna, a three-time CIS national champion with the UBC Thunderbirds. Forty year-old curler Heather Smith-Dacey and Kelsey Serwa, who competed in the Ski Cross at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games was photographed at Red Rock Canyon.

World Cup skeleton champion Melissa Hollingsworth, a bronze medalist from the Torino Winter Games was photographed at the MGM Grand. Joining her at the venue was 2012 FIS World Cup gold medal skier Erin Mielzynski.

Four other athletes from this remarkable group of women were photographed in Toronto. A pair of track and field sensations, Brianne Theisen and Phylicia George was photographed at Monarch Park. George finished in the 100 meter hurdles at London 2012, while Theisen competed in the Heptathlon.
Sarah Wells, a competitor in the 400-meter hurdles at London 2012 modeled Nike (like George) for her photo shoot. Taylor Pischke, a beach volleyball player with six Canadian national titles was photographed wearing Miss Jackson swimwear at Ashbridges Bay.

Credit goes to Maich who acknowledged that compared to other countries, Canada needed to do a better job at elevating their athletes to star status. While fans may already be anticipating the 2014 edition, there is no question that the athletes featured are helping to shed a positive light on Canadian sport.

Photos of Summer Mortimer, Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters and Meaghan Mikkelson by Matt Barnes