Vienna, Austria, August 4, 2019 - Instead of flying back home to North America Sunday, Canadians Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan had to rebook their airline tickets to play the mid-day women's gold medal match at the US$600,000 A1 Major Vienna presented by Swatch.
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Originally scheduled to be contested at 6 p.m. Saturday (local time), the match was moved back nearly 18 hours due to inclement weather in the Austrian capital as the second-seeded Humana-Paredes and Pavan captured the FIVB World Tour gold medal here Sunday by defeating sixth-seeded Brazilian Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado in the finals.
When asked if the 18-hour delay was worth it, the 26-year Humana-Paredes said "yes, but only if we won.” In securing their second-straight win over the Brazilians to tie the World Tour series between the two teams at 3-3, the Canadians shared the $40,000 first-place prize.
"Seriously, we weren’t thrilled about it, but we understood they had to change it for some reason," said Humana-Paredes. "We had to change our flights and that was a bit of a mission last night, but we’re glad we did it and we could play in this beautiful weather on this beautiful day in this amazing stadium. It worked out perfectly, it’s a fairy-tale ending for sure."
With their 2-0 (21-19, 21-17) win in 47 minutes, Humana-Paredes and Pavan also scored Canada's first-ever women's gold medal victory over a Brazilian pair in five previous title meetings on the FIVB World Tour. Pavan was part of all four previous title setbacks, including two with Humana-Paredes and two with Heather Bansley.
Sarah Pavan (right) of Canada blocks against Brazilian rival Carolina Salgado
"When you finish a tournament with a gold medal, you have to be happy," said the 32-year-old Pavan. "All these teams are so good; the women’s field is so deep now. To be able to win a tournament is a tough set."
When asked about the pairs six-week journey that featured FIVB World Tour events in Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Japan and Austria, Pavan said "we made it through this six-week stretch with three gold medals and we capped off our Beach Majors trifecta here. We finally won Vienna so we’re happy."
The Canadians started their world-wide journey June 28 at the 10-day FIVB World Championships where Humana-Paredes and Pavan captured the gold medal July 6. The pair finished fifth in Switzerland the next week and returned to Canada to win the Edmonton Open July 21. After a fifth-place finish last week in Japan at the Tokyo 2020 dress rehearsal, Humana-Paredes and Pavan ended the stretch with a gold medal Sunday in Vienna.
"We got better and better as the tournament went on," added Pavan as her partnership with Humana-Paredes has now netted six FIVB World Tour gold medals. "That’s always been our motto all season, just one percent better every game and I think we did that. Our serving was very effective in that last set, as good as it’s ever been. We put it all together at a good time."
Humana-Paredes said the match Sunday with the Brazilians was "a tough one, the first set for sure. It went back and forth a little bit, it could have gone either way. They were grinding, we were grinding, and we made some good plays at the end there and came out on the good end of that and then we kind of carried that momentum into the second set. They’re a very strong team and we knew we had to play our best game which took us awhile to get there, but we got there."
Playing with Pavan since September 2016, Humana-Paredes added that "even after the World Championships we knew we could get better, which is crazy, and we’re still looking to get better. We’re never going to stop trying to improve and we’re trying to peak for next year, next year is the big on. If we keep doing the things we need to do, we’re in good shape."
As for playing in the Austrian capital, Humana-Paredes said "Vienna’s amazing. Just listen to this. They come out and support this sport. It’s a tradition here in Austria. In Klagenfurt it was a crazy party and here in Vienna it’s a crazy party and Austrians love beach volleyball and we love to play here."
At the end of the post-match interviews Sunday, Humana-Paredes was asked about the six-week journey through three continents. "Will it ever sink in?" she said. "I don’t know. We get a break and we can finally process what we’ve accomplished in the last six weeks, which still I can’t even begin to think out. We can go celebrate with our loved ones and take a break with our mind, body and soul and just be proud of everything we’ve done."
The women's A1 Major Vienna All-Brazilian bronze medal match was completed Saturday evening with fourth-seeded Agatha Bednarczuk/Eduarda "Duda" Lisboa defeating 25th-seeded qualifiers Talita Antunes/Taiana Lima 2-0 (31-29, 21-19) in 60 minutes.
A1 Major Vienna podium placers were (left to right) Antonelli, Carolina, Pavan, Humana-Paredes, Agatha and Duda.
The three Brazilian teams in the women's final four collected $68,000 in winnings, including $32,000 for Antonelli/Salgado, $20,000 for Agatha/Duda and $16,000 for Talita/Taiana.