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'Best of' Beach Volleyball List

By Ontario Volleyball, 04/30/20, 4:15PM EDT


Beach Volleyball has been around since the early part of the last century. Although there is some dispute as to whether it was first played on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii or Santa Monica, California, one thing the world agrees on is it’s fun to watch and very exciting to play.

Although one might think that Ontario would not be a hotbed of Beach Volleyball activity, the numbers and the history tell a different story. In the late 1950s, Beach Volleyball came to the shores of Lake Ontario when it was first introduced in Canada at the Balmy Beach Club in Toronto’s east end.

Over the course of the last season, 3,710 teams played throughout the season which included a total of 7,420 athletes which should be noted weren’t individual athletes as most athletes play multiple events. There were 579 teams with 1,158 who participated in the 2019 Beach Ontario Championships, which was an increase of 24% from 2018.

Beach Volleyball became a demonstration sport at the Olympic Games in 1992 and was adopted into the Olympic programme in 1996. We couldn’t go any further into a ‘best of’ list of Beach Volleyball and not mention Canadians John Child and Mark Heese. The duo delivered Canada’s first and only Olympic medal, a Bronze at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Heese & Child: 1996 Olympic Promo

John Child remembers it this way. “Standing on the podium for a Canada was a very moment for me with overwhelming feelings of National pride and accomplishment. It felt like pretty surreal.”

As an amateur athlete representing Canada in the sport, Jennifer Harkness shares her perspective this way, “I think the most enjoyable thing about playing beach volleyball is that with only two players per team, you get to be involved in every play and are therefore very much in charge of your own fate on the court.”

Long time stadium announcer and huge Beach Volleyball fan Jonathan Fogarty has his own opinions about what makes for good Beach Volleyball. Fogarty is Australian and is a Beach Volleyball Commentator and Announcer who worked at the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Games along with the FIVB World Tour.

Being involved from the sidelines offers its own kind of excitement, “I think just how athletic and incredibly dedicated the athletes are with the combination of strength, stamina and agility. And unlike golf, the more noise you make the better they play. How many sports can say that?” said Fogarty.

Who better to talk about a ‘best of’ list of Beach Volleyball than two of the best, Olympic medallist John Child from the athlete’s perspective and Jonathan Fogarty from the PA Announcer’s booth?

In no order of importance, here are some Volleyball matchups according to Jonathan Fogarty and John Child that should be ‘must-sees’ on everybody’s playlist:

Fogarty: “ATLANTA 1996 Olympics. Beach volleyball makes it’s debut. The match between two USA teams: Sinjin Smith and Carl Henkel vs. Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes was more of an event than a match. It had all the buildup of a great prize fight, too, complete with salvos flying from the AVP sides, claiming Smith and Henkel had no business being in the Olympics. Lots of bad blood. What should have been a walk over for the eventual gold medallists was anything but – drama both on and off the court with fans of the two teams trading insults. Fabulous stuff…and a great match.”

Child: “Three very cool games to watch would be Sinjin Smith and Carl Henkel vs Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes in the 96 Olympic Games. It was a quarter final played at a time when there was an on-going feud with the AVP and FIVB.”

Sadly, no YouTube footage exists of the above match, but there is footage of the Olympic trials featuring these athletes that same year.

1996 Beach Volleyball Olympic Trials - Qualifying Match #2

Fogarty: Sydney 2000 Olympics: “Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst win the gold over the Brazilian legends Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede. On paper and in the build up, no way Brazil would lose this match. The underdogs from down under in front of a home crowd pulled off one of the most stunning upsets ever! Bondi erupted (20 years ago this year!). I cried in front of 10,000 people!”

2000 Olympics: Women's Beach Volleyball finals - Brazil vs Australia

Child: “Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan in the finals of the World Championships they recently won. That match brought back that sense of Canadian Volleyball Pride to players and non volleyball players around the country.”

Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan: Hamburg 2019

Fogarty: Athens 2004: “Behar and Bede of Brazil made it to back-to-back Olympic Gold Medal matches (an under appreciated achievement in my view) only to meet the best team the sport has ever seen in Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh of the United States. Team USA won their first of three consecutive Olympic Golds and it was a privilege to be there to see that.”

2004 Olympics: Women's Beach Volleyball Finals

Fogarty: Also, Athens 2004: “I have a soft spot for this one as I saw it live and called it for the stadium. Brazilians Emanuel Rego & Ricardo Santos won the gold medal, defeating Bosma and Herrera of Spain. It would prove to be the only Gold Medal arguably our sports greatest player, Rego, would win. Emanuel Rego went on to win Bronze in Beijing and Silver in London to complete the full set of medals.”

2004 Olympics: Men's Beach Volleyball Finals

What makes for greatness in this sport? For John Child, the three best qualities for a Beach athlete are: “athleticism, ball control, and net height (how high you can reach over the net when jumping, not just the size of the player).”

Fogarty: “Sadly, I only got to see him play a few times live and could have picked any number of matches from his incredible career, but, if I had to pick one moment from Randy Stoklos, I would pick his victory in the final of the Phoenix Open in 1992 of all places. He and SInjin Smith beat Adam Johnson and Kent Steffes for what would become the great man’s 100th career victory. Stoklos’ contribution to the sport is immense and I’m sure he has other personal favourites but for me this was an incredible milestone that few have achieved.”

AVP Volleyball: 1992 Phoenix Final

The last word belongs to John Child on this ‘best of’ list: “And my personal and very biased opinion, Mark and my game against Portugal for the bronze medal in Atlanta! Two smaller teams scraping out every point for the first ever Olympic Beach Volleyball medal!”

For Ontario Volleyball Association Executive Director, Jo-Anne Ljubicic it is “the combination of athleticism, grit and determination that defines the athletes and makes the sport so compelling to watch.”

What matches would be on your list?

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