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Friday, October 23, 2015

What a Summer for Ben and Chaim!

Travelling the world to play a sport you love - Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? If you've been following our blog or social media you know that Team Infinit Duo Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk definitely lived the dream this summer. Travelling to 8 different countries, competing against the best beach volleyball teams in the world, their main goal for the season was to qualify for the World Tour Finals and each of their tournaments this summer would be important for them to achieve their goal. 

The guys started their season off ranked 19th at the Moscow Grand Slam. They finished the round robin play at the top of their pool, having defeated the Netherlands (14th), Poland (3rd) and Belarus (30th). The duo had a bye through the first round of elimination play, and faced a tough matchup against the 16th ranked German team. Unfortunately this match ended the weekend for the pair, however they finished the weekend in 9th place - an impressive start for Ben and Chaim. 

The following weekend they flew to Croatia to compete in the Porec Major. After their strong showing at the Grand Slam they were ranked 16th in the tournament and were be placed in a pool with Brazil (1st), Canada (17th) and Croatia (32nd). Amidst gruelling temperatures which reached the mid 30's, the pair handled their competition easily and finished a perfect 3-0 in pool play.We loved what Chaim had to say about Infinit: "It was hard to keep our energy at a consistent high level so we had to be smart during the matches.  It was also crucial to have our fluid energizer with us for all matches” 

Their monumental moment was defeating the number 1 ranked Brazil squad in 2 sets, with scores of  21-16 and 34-32 respectively. They made it through to the quarterfinals, where their success was cut short by the 6th ranked Netherlands squad - the Canadian duo finished 5th overall in the tournament. 

Next up they were off to Norway for the Stavanger Major from June 10-14. After the past two weekends in which they saw themselves climbing up the rankings - they were now sitting at 11th in the World entering the Major. Finishing the pool play in second, they came up against a strong German squad who after an intense 3 sets ultimately ended Team Saxton Schalk's weekend. A few days later they were back in North America at the St. Petersburg Grand Slam, seeded 10th. They finished the rounds of pool play with a record of 2-1, and ultimately faced their elimination in the second round of the playoffs, losing a close set of matches 2-1 to the future tournament champions.

The venue at Gstaad
Ben and Chaim during a match at the Gstaad Major
From Mid-June through October the pair travelled to 5 different countries to compete in 6 tournaments - pretty amazing isn't it. First up they competed in the Hague World Championships in the Netherlands. A strong field of teams had Team Saxton Schalk seeded 17th, through pool play the duo defeated 2 of the three teams in their division sealing a 2-1 record entering elimination play. Unfortunately, their tournament would come to an end in the round of 32 after another close 2-1 defeat against a strong Swiss team. Still vying for Top 10 in the world to qualify them for the World Tour Finals, the next few tournaments were crucial for Ben and Chaim. Next stop for the summer was in Gstaad, Switzerland for the Gstaad Major. If you haven't seen the venue for this tournament, I recommend that you google it - absolutely phenomenal! The pair entered the weekend seeded 16th and were placed in Pool A, strong play led them to a perfect 3-0 record and a bypass through the first elimination round. In round 2 they played a hard fought match against the 13th ranked team but fate was not in their favour and they were faced with a 2-1 defeat - good for a 9th place finish in the tournament.

Yokohama Medalists (Team Saxton/Schalk in white)
At the end of July the pair was on to Japan to compete in the Yokohama Grand Slam. The duo was seeded 16th in the tournament but very successful play led them to the final's where they lost the deciding match 0-2 to the Brazilians Alison/Bruno Schmidt, who had been dominating the beach scene this summer. However, this tournament and their silver medal finish was essential on their road to the World Tour as it set them up with excellent seedings for the remainder of their tournaments. In August, Ben and Chaim travelled back to North America to compete in the Long Beach California Grand Slam, after their successful showing at Yokohama the duo vaulted up to the 9th place seed for the California Tournament. A tough go throughout games the pair finished a disappointing 25th, however rebounded very well at the Olsztyn Grand Slam winning a bronze medal. This performance secured their spot in the top 10 and earned them a seed in the World Tour Finals - a busy summer but well worth it.

The World Tour Finals kicked off with pool play and Ben and Chaim (seeded 6th) were placed in Pool B with the 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 10th seeded teams. Tough competition and hard fought matches would see them finish 1-3 in pool play without a spot to continue on in the tournament. Though the Finals didn't go as planned for the guys, they have a lot to be proud of this season.

Olsztyn Grand Slam Medalists
We connected with Ben and Chaim recently to recap their summer and here is what they had to say: “It was big for us to finish ranked 8th in the World and qualify for this event.  We worked very hard this season and our results have shown.  Taking 7th place at this event wasn’t exactly the finish we wanted but we represented Canada well and showed a high level of ball, it was a great tournament.”

When looking back on their season, they were proud of what they accomplished and are excited to see what the future has in store for them. 

“We have had a fantastic season travelling and competing against the tops teams in the world.  Our goal was to rank in the top 10 in the world and qualify for the World Tour Finals, we reached these goals which is exciting for us moving into the Olympic year.  We managed 2 Grand Slam medals (2nd Yokohama, 3rd Poland) which were career finishes for both Ben and I. We are excited to keep pushing to not only qualify, but to also increase our ranking going into the Olympics in Rio - Our goal is to stand on the Podium at the games.” 

We are delighted to be able to work with such high calibre athletes every day, and Ben and Chaim are no exception. They are truly hard working individuals who give it their all day in and day out. They represent themselves, their sponsors and Canada with pure class and respect. We at Infinit Nutrition are excited to continue fuelling the pair on their Road to Rio.