Toronto, Canada, October 10, 2020 - No Cirque du Soleil this year for Melissa Humana-Paredes as the Canadian world champion will be spending her 28th birthday today visiting an alpaca farm with her mother Myriam.
“After playing in Mexico, the Dominic Republic and China the past few years, I am finally home in Toronto on my birthday!” said Humana-Paredes. “My mom and I are born two days apart and we usually go to a Cirque du Solei show for our birthdays. But given the current situation, we had to look elsewhere. We’ve decided to hit up an alpaca farm instead!”
The sixth women’s player to win both an FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship gold medal along with being honoured as the international circuit’s top defensive player, Humana-Paredes also noted that her “birthday also falls on (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend so I’ll be up at the cottage with my close family celebrating a COVID-friendly birthday and Thanksgiving.”
After participating in three American domestic events that concluded August 2 with Sarah Pavan, Humana-Paredes said she “flew right back to Canada and spent my quarantine on Vancouver Island, which is one of the best places to quarantine. I started a Certificate in Business at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. This was provided through a fantastic programme called GamePlan, which is meant to support Canadian athletes and help guide them to live more holistically through developing skills for life during and after sports.”
Humana-Paredes also added that she is “back home, unpacking and putting my suitcase away. This is wildly satisfying and doing a deep clean of my closet. And I’m finally back in the gym at the Canadian Sport Institute of Ontario. It’s time to get back all that muscle I lost during the pandemic!”
When asked if a season off of international competition has hurt or helped her team, Humana-Paredes noted “we’ve put in enough work on and off the court before this to know that time away from the game and from the team won’t set us back. If anything, it’s given us extra time to work on and perfect things both unrelated and related to the game.”
As she awaits the release of the 2021 international schedule, Humana-Parades said “this time of the year is usually my favourite because it’s where all the work behind the scenes happens. I put my head down and train hard in the gym to not just get back to where I was, but better. The extra time is a blessing for this reason. Also knowing that when I leave again, I likely won’t be able to come back home until after the Olympics so I’m going to enjoy my time at home with family and friends as much as I can. And study, study and study of course.”
Humana-Paredes said she and Pavan have not “practised together in the last two months. After competing in Long Beach, we both came back to Canada and took our time off. I miss her and not seeing her for so long is strange.
As for her partnership with Pavan, the Canadian pair has posted a 118-39 match mark (75.2 percent) with six gold medals, 11 podium placements, 16 final four finishes and 22 quarterfinal appearances in 31 FIVB World Tour events together. Humana-Parades and Pavan also captured the gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia where the pair defeated host country favourites Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy in the finals.
2019 World Championship podium (left to right) with Alix Klineman, April Ross, Sarah Pavan, Melissa Humana-Paredes, Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy.
“Our relationship is our strength,” said Humana-Paredes about her team. “Our intangibles make us strong. If I reflect back to our three American appearances in Long Beach at the end of July, I would say everything needs to be improved, but that’s the critic in me, I know that will come back with a proper lead-up and time.”
In the three Long Beach events in southern California, Humana-Paredes and Pavan won seven of 11 matches with two of the setbacks to American rivals Alix Klineman and April Ross. However, the Canadians own the most important win over Klineman and Ross after defeating the Americans in two sets at the 2019 FIVB World Championships at Hamburg, Germany where Humana-Paredes and Pavan gained their Tokyo Olympic berth.
Thirteen months removed from her last international participation at the FIVB World Tour Finals in Rome, Humana-Paredes said she “misses the excitement of walking onto centre court, hearing the music and seeing the fans. I miss exploring and eating foods from all over the world. I miss my beach volleyball family. Seeing them only through social media is not cutting it! Counting down the days until we can do this again (safely, of course)!”
With her Tokyo Olympic berth secured, Humana-Paredes said she has her sights “set on playing in the Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games. As for 2032, it is a bit far in the future for me to think about at the moment, Tokyo is the only thing on my mind right now.”
For some players during the pandemic, new hobbies have been developed, but not for Humana-Paredes.
“I haven’t developed any new hobbies per-say, just furthered some of my old hobbies,” said Humana-Paredes, who grew up watching her father Hernán coach Canadian Olympic bronze medal winners John Child and Mark Heese. “I continue attempting to bake, have upped my vlogging game on YouTube (check it out!), tried new forms of exercises at home (Zumba and salsa classes) and am getting back into the routine of reading textbooks again.”
Mark Heese (left) and John Child (right) with Hernán Humana's children - Melissa (second from left) and Felipe in the mid-1990s.