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Canadians Bansley and Bukovec win silver at Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour event in Brazil | CBC Sports

Canada’s Heather Bansley and Sophie Bukovec secured a silver medal on Sunday after losing to Latvia in the final at the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Recife Challenge tournament in Recife, Brazil.

The 12th-ranked pair of Anastasija Samoilova and Tina Graudina won gold in two tight sets (21-18, 21-17) against Canada.

The Canadians defeated Slovenia and Brazil in the preliminary round on Saturday before defeating Germany 2-0 (21-16, 21-11) in the semifinals on Sunday to book their ticket to the gold medal game.

Bansley, of Waterdown, Ont., and Bukovec of Toronto are Canada’s third-ranked women’s pair and are ranked 39th in the world. Sunday’s silver medal was their best since the Beach Pro Tour Futures Halifax event in September.

The pair joined forces in July 2023 after two-time Olympian Bansley, 36, came out of retirement following her quarterfinal exit at the 2021 Tokyo Games with then-partner Brandie Wilkerson.

Wilkerson and Melissa Humana-Paredes are currently Canada’s top-ranked duo (No. 4 in the world), while Canadians Sarah Pavan and Molly McBain are ranked 21st.

17 qualifying spots for the Paris Olympics are available in both the women’s and men’s events this summer, with top-ranked Beach Pro Tour events earning points towards these rankings.

Canadian men’s pair Sam Schachter of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Dan Dearing of Toronto, ranked No. 30 in the world, finished fifth in Brazil after losing to No. 31 Cuba in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

Cubans Noslen Diaz and Jorge Alayo lost in the final against Brazilians Evandro Gonçalves and Arthur Lanci 2-0 (21-15, 21-18).

Canadians MacNeil and Russell win gold in Australia

Elsewhere in the beach volleyball world on Sunday, Canadians Jake MacNeil of Georgetown, Ont., and Alex Russell of Surrey, B.C., won gold against the hometown Australians 2-0 (21-19, 21-) at the Beach Pro Tour Futures 14). Event in Coolangatta.

“We came second here two years ago so we felt we needed to come back and make amends,” MacNeil told Volleyball Australia. “This is our absolute favorite beach; people have shown up and we’re just speechless right now.”

“Alex makes my job super easy, he was an absolute monster in today’s final and he made my job easy. We’re just so grateful.”

The 65th-ranked pair also won a medal this season at the Punta Cana Volleyball Classic in the Dominican Republic in September after losing to the United States in the gold medal game.

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