21 February 2014

Hey, thanks for checking out my blog! I actually have a new website, so please check it out and refer to it for any future updates. See ya there!

26 November 2013

Hilton HHonors Beach Volleyball Challenge

Good morning Waikiki Beach!
I recently got back from an exhibition event in Hawaii. It was such an honour to be a part of the Hilton HHonors Beach Volleyball Challenge November 15-17. It was an event that invited only one men's and one women's team from Canada, China and the US. But because there were only 6 teams involved does not mean this was a small event! We were totally treated like rock stars as soon as we arrived (which was a little later than expected due to a missed connection at JFK airport... haha). We did interviews, attended a luau in honour of the athletes at the event and met a whole bunch of great people along the way!
The venue was beautiful, the weather was perfect and the volleyball was awesome! What a huge experience for Jamie and I. We got to play two of the best teams in the world. For fun. In Hawaii. Is this a dream?

Yes Guy!
The team from the states was Kerri Walsh and April Ross, the Gold and Silver medalists at the Olympics last year. The team from China had just won the last FIVB event we were at in Thailand... and not to mention one of the girls is the reigning World Champion.
So, you could say we were the underdogs... being Olympic hopefuls and not having nearly as much experience as our competition... but what a chance for us to play at the highest level and put our skills to the test! I feel so lucky to have been able to take part in this tournament. I learned so much about myself and our team, and proved to myself that we really do have what it takes to get to the top level in this sport.

Here are some pictures from our time in Hawaii. I miss it already!

Mom, Ben, John, me, Jamie, Ahren and Chaim. Team Canada at the Luau!
Team bonding

Take me back!

10 November 2013

Hello Asia... we meet again

 Jamie and I wrapped up our FIVB World Tour season with two stops in Asia. First we went to Xiamen, China to compete in the last Grand Slam of the year. You might recall we kicked off the season in China this year with some pretty good results! (9th in Fuzhou and 17th in Shanghai) so we were looking forward to working hard and getting some more good finishes. 

Visa, 15hr flight, jet-lag! Getting to China is a process...

China was good to us again! We played in some of the windiest conditions we've ever experienced, and improved our game with each day of playing. The first day of pool play was a little rough, we lost both our matches to USA and Germany. The next day was much better, we beat Japan to advance out of our pool. Then we matched up against Italy in the first round of playoffs. The wind was so strong, but we used it to our advantage and kept hitting the ball hard when we could. We won that game, which took us to the second round vs. another team from Germany. It was close, but we just couldn't quite pull off a win. We came away with a 9th place finish, which we are very proud of!

Our last World Tour stop of 2013 was an Open in Phuket, Thailand. 
Ok, you probably think that as a beach volleyball player, I get to spend all my time on a beautiful sandy beach under the sun. That's definitely not the case, as we usually play at venues that are man-made beach court set up somewhere away from any water... and sometimes it's cold and rainy to the point that we have to wear full-body spandex. Anyway, as the above is all too true, I do have to admit that Phuket is EXACTLY what you'd imagine when it comes to living the beach volleyball dream!! 
The courts are on white sandy beaches, the sun is usually shining and the ocean is at the perfect temperature for you to feel refreshed, yet able to swim all day! We love it there. Such a treat to be able to travel there after a long and gruelling season! I'd invite anyone to come down there and cheer us on :) it's a great spot to travel to. 

The view from centre court.
Pad Thai and other delicious food every day!

In the tournament we lost to Sweden and Brasil but beat Norway to advance to the playoffs. We beat Vanuatu, but lost to Argentina, landing us another 9th place finish.
This has been our third 9th in a row, and our fourth this season. It's really nice to see hard work paying off, but we already have our sights set for bigger and better things next season. We came pretty close to some even better finishes, we know they are within reach, and that's so encouraging and inspiring for us!

Here are some pics from the trip

Apparently snickers will make you younger and clean-shaven....

....because this looks appetizing! A super pig that moo's...

The waitress was as tall as Jamie sitting down! I had to take a picture

My good friend Heather lives in Bangkok and met up with us in Phuket! 

Being cool on Raya Island

Motorcy: the preferred way to get around in Bangkok!

You can never get tired of this view!

13 October 2013

September, Brazil and Dragons

Time for an update.
There was a break in the FIVB World Tour schedule. So for the month of September, Jamie and I were able to take a mini break, spend time with our families and recharge the old batteries. We had just spent a total of nine weeks traveling through Europe and we needed a little down time!
We focused on some quality training with our coach and I think we used the time we had together very effectively.
Toronto DOES have a beach! Early mornings at Ashbridges Bay are some of my favourite moments.

Brazil Grand Slam
So after a month off from competing, Jamie and I were getting hungry for more battles.
We flew down to Sao Paulo feeling refreshed and ready to go.
We were in the qualifier and had to match up against a pretty strong Russian team to advance into the Main Draw. We knew we had to come out aggressively in order to win. It was that mentality that led us to a 3 set victory (21-16, 20-22, 15-12). I had been working on my jump spin serve over the summer and decided to test it out here. It felt good to put something into an high-pressure game situation that I'd been practicing for so long, and with such positive results! Safe to say I have it as a tool from now on!

Jamie being large at the net vs. Switzerland

In the Main Draw, we were pooled with top teams from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. We'd played all these teams before, and only managed to beat the Swiss team at our last meeting.
Jamie and I managed to stay strong and confident throughout all our pool play matches and WIN our pool!! This was the first time we've ever accomplished that, and it felt GREAT! Not only did it mean we had secured a top 10 spot in the Grand Slam, we proved that we have what it takes to win four matches in a row and really believe we can compete with some of the top teams in the world.

In the Round of 16 we faced the second ranked team in the tournament, the Salgado sisters from Brazil. This was definitely not our best game... facing a tournament favourite, at home, on centre court..... but we managed to make some plays and figure out where our game can continue to improve. We lost in two sets, but couldn't be too upset for long because we came away from the tournament with a 9th place finish.

Some of our success could be attributed to the Brazilian diet we treated ourselves to. One night before the tournament started, a bunch us of Canadians went out for all you can eat Brazilian BBQ. I can definitely say I've never eaten so much delicious meat before in my entire life. It just kept coming! And trust me, it was hard to say no.
Also, I always look forward to going to Brazil for one of my all-time favourite treats: Acai! They prepare it in a way so that it comes in a slushie form, with sliced bananas on top. And apparently it's a superfood, so I'll take ten please!!! yummmmm

Next up: China!
We're home for 5 days, then we take off for Xiamen, China. We're definitely looking to keep our momentum rolling!!

But before we leave...

Way back in April this year we were asked to participate in an episode of Dragon's Den, showing off some pretty sweet bikinis.
Karu Design was born from a need for simple and practical bikini design that maintains performance, quality and style. Founder and designer, Kaoru Matsui, has combined her active way of life with her appreciation for design to create the swimwear line for today's dynamic woman.
If you're interested in getting your hands on some sweet style, check out her website: www.karudesign.ca
> use the promo code "teamcanada" to get 25% off!

The episode airs this Wednesday, October 16th at 8pm, so be sure to tune into CBC to see us hang out with the dragons!

This was such a neat experience, I'm a huge fan of the show, so I was a little star struck when it came to meeting the dragons!! We all had a great time :)

05 September 2013

August: Eurotrip 2.0

I can't believe September is already here! And it's definitely making itself known. I was lucky enough to spend the long weekend up north with family and friends. The weather was fantastic... until September 1st. Then temperature dropped about 10 degrees and the rains came down! Alright, alright, I get it! Summer is over :(
But that doesn't mean that our competition season is over.
Before I get in to what we have coming up, I'll share a little recap about where we were in the month of August.

First stop: BERLIN, Germany

We were in the qualifier for this Grand Slam and we faced a feisty team from Greece. We had to show some real grit and determination to win the first set. We managed to come out on top with a score of 32-30! Then we solidified the win with a 21-13 win in the second set. Because of so many game experiences we've endured together in the past (both wins and losses), we were comfortable and confident in ourselves and our abilities, even under some pretty intense pressure. This win felt really awesome. We even gained a few German fans who were watching!
A bird's eye view of some of the competition courts in Berlin.

Jamie and I even had a day to explore the city. Good food, great coffee and lots of history.
Definitely worth checking out!

Imitating a piece of the Berlin wall. 
Apparently this is legal? A keg bike powered by drunk guys. 

Next stop: OLTEN, Switzerland

Fact: You can open a bottle of wine using only a shoe.

After the event in Berlin, we headed to Switzerland to participate in a national tour event. Before making our way to Olten, Jamie and I crashed on my friend's couch in Zurich for a couple of days to recover. Thanks Andres for opening up your apartment to us! Our little break (which included an outdoor movie night, chilling by Lake Zurich and jumping off diving platforms was just what we needed for a little down time before getting back into training and competing. 

Such poise. Such grace.
The event in Olten was so much fun! One court was built with stands surrounding it, right on the main road! Tons of people came from all over to watch some awesome volleyball. The vibe was pretty different here than in world tour events. There was definitely a party atmosphere, and you could tell that everyone involved was having such a great time, from the players to the fans to the DJ/announcer who was there all day every day (and night!). Unfortunately we ended up losing in the quarterfinal, but Maverick and Christian won the event on the men's side. Congrats boys, that was some seriously good volleyball. A well-deserved win!

Last stop in August: MOSCOW, Russia

The view from our hotel....

Russia is always... interesting. For some reason, Jamie and I flew into Moscow at 2am this year, so we were really hoping somebody would be there to pick us up from the airport to transport us to the tournament hotel. Luckily there was... a very large, very sketchy Russian dude who we had to convince that we were in fact the people he was looking for. No, of course he didn't speak English. And no, he didn't understand any of the universal hand symbols for "volleyball". Or if he did, he was unaware of the fact that he was sent to pick up two volleyball players.
Eventually he just grabbed Jamie's suitcase and we followed him to his black, unmarked car. I fell asleep almost immediately, but Jamie was on watch, terrified for our lives because a) he was going an average of 160km/h on the highways and roads and b) we still weren't totally sure if he was taking us to the right place.... Anyway, we made it to the hotel in one piece.
This made Russia all the more enjoyable!

We had a tough pool this tournament, playing teams from Germany, Russia and the Netherlands. We lost our game to the Neds by two points in the third set. Had we won that would have moved us on to playoffs! But, it was not meant to be, so we ended up with a 25th place finish this time.

So what's next? We are home for the month of September and will be training for the tournaments coming up in October and November. FIVB events in Brazil, China and Thailand are coming up! Followed by the NORCECA Finals in Trinidad and one last FIVB in South Africa. This month of training and being away from international competition will no doubt make us hungry to play hard come October.
I'm also so happy to be home because I get to spend some quality time with my friends, my family and my dogs!!! ❤❤

Little bro with poutine!