Last Word with Chaim Schalk and Ben Saxton

I recently got the chance to talk to Canada’s top men’s beach volleyball team, and 8th ranked in the world, Chaim Schalk and Ben Saxton.  The boys are coming off their best result as a team, a silver medal in the FIVB Yokohama Grand Slam.  They are currently preparing for the next Grand Slam of the season in Long Beach, California.  The tournament starts up on August 18th, and Schalk and Saxton look to build on their recent success, move up the rankings and secure their spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Last Word with Chaim Schalk and Ben Saxton

Ben Kerr: You finished second in your most recent tournament in Yokohama. What was the secret behind the success?

Ben Saxton: There’s not really a secret to the success. We just made the right plays at the right times, and didn’t give up very many. We just play solid consistent ball and closed the important games. We’re constantly training ourselves to become a podium threat, this was just the first time we’ve gotten there.

Chaim Schalk: Consistency.  We have been playing at a high level all year throughout pool play and the difference for us in Yokohama was our focus and consistency through every playoff match.  We know that we are capable of medals at any event so this was a huge stepping stone for us.  

BK: With Yokohama being right before the mid-season break, how do you keep the momentum going into Long Beach, starting on the 18th?

CS: I think it is nice to have a little break right after a career high finish.  In Japan we used every bit of energy we had left in the tank to get a Silver medal, so giving our bodies a chance to recover after that is very important.  In order to continue our success in Long Beach we need to go into that tournament with the same mentality and take it one match at a time. 

BS: The break is actually a bit of a blessing after a good result. Often when a new team reaches a podium, they seem to follow up with something less than ideal the next week, for whatever reason. This gives us a chance to recoup mentally and physically, so that we can start the Long Beach Grand Slam in the same state of mind as we went into Yokohama.

BK: You head into the second  half of the season ranked eighth in the world.  How much do you focus on that ranking, and what do you think is a realistic goal to be at by the end of the season?

BS: It’s really difficult not to pay attention to the rankings, especially in an Olympic qualifying year. Every few days I tell myself to ignore the rankings, only to find myself checking the numbers again almost immediately. I think it’s on almost everyone’s mind, but I don’t really want it to be my focus. If we just continue to play well then the rankings will go in our favor. This season we’re hoping to qualify for the World Tour Finals event in Ft. Lauderdale in October. Only the top 8 teams plus 2 wildcards will get into that, and right now, we’re on pace.

CS: We want to continue to progress up the rankings until we are #1 in the World.  We set a goal at the start of the season to qualify for the World Tour Finals in St. Petersburg, Florida.  We need to be sitting in the top 8 to guarantee that spot so if we can continue to get single digit results we will have a great shot at competing there.  I personally don’t tend to look at the rankings all that much.  I know that if we are taking care of business and taking it one match at a time we will continually progress up the rankings.  BK: Is there any particular stop on the tour that is a personal favorite?  What stop are you most looking forward to in the second half of the year? Why?