26.06.2019 - Hamburg, Germany
Two years can be a long time in beach volleyball. If you take the period between the 2017 World Championships in Vienna and the upcoming World Championships Hamburg 2019 presented by comdirect and ALDI Nord, which stars on Friday, you’ll notice that some teams improved, others regressed and several no longer even exist.
Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson are certainly part of the first category.
The Canadians entered the tournament at the Danube Island two years ago as the 15th-seeeded team and finished it in an extremely encouraging fifth-place after a quarter-final setback to eventual silver medal winners April Ross and Lauren Fendrick of the United States.
That was just a sign of what was to come in the next couple of years as the duo climbed the international rankings by winning seven World Tour medals, including three golds. As a result, they head to Hamburg as the third-seeded tandem and one of the contenders for the top of the podium.
“We’re definitely more connected as a team now,” Brandie reflected. “Vienna was one of our first tournaments together and one of my first tournaments coming in, so I think we’ve grown a lot. I’m more excited and definitely more confident in our system and our team and we want to set our standards high and work hard for it. It will definitely be a different rhythm and that’s something we’re very prepared for.”
According to Heather, a veteran of four World Championships and a Rio 2016 Olympian, most of the progress accomplished by the team was due to better chemistry and establishing a clear and efficient communication system between them.
Once that aspect of their game was polished, the Canadians became one of the toughest teams in the world to score on thanks to Brandie’s massive net presence and Heather’s quick movement in the backcourt.
“As a team, this is our third season together, so we’ve got to know each other more on the court and really fine tune our style of play and really come to our own,” the defender analyzed. “I think the better we can communicate and interact on the court the better we’ll do. We’ve got some big goals for Hamburg and we’re really excited for the World Championships.”
Their goals in Hamburg include stepping on the podium for the first time in the World Championships. If they make it, they would still have the added bonus of a significant amount of Olympic qualification points and potentially a direct spot in Tokyo 2020 if they finish on top.
“It’s our biggest event this year and our goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games into the top-15 of the world rankings, so it would definitely help us to achieve that,” Heather added. “This year, it’s the World Champs and next year is Tokyo, so there are some big things ahead of us now.”
The Canadians landed in Hamburg last Sunday, six days before their opener against Uruguayans Camila Bausero and Maria Rotti. In Pool C, they will also face Swiss Joana Heidrich and Anouk Vergé-Dépré and Germans Kim Behrens and Cinja Tillmann.
Against the Germans, they will have all the home fans against them, but it’s not like they won’t continue feeling at home in Hamburg, a city in which they played at the World Tour Finals in both 2017 and 2018.
“It’s a great event, they do a fantastic job there,” Heather remarked. “I really like the venue and they’ve got some great fans. It’s a really beautiful city and our coach (Lennard Krapp) is from Hamburg, so we kind of feel a little bit at home there.”