Stampede Open Beach Volleyball Event Will Serve Calgary Fun


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Ben Saxton and his buddies bring the beach to Calgary.

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They’ll drop him right there in the Deerfoot Inn & Casino parking lot.

Then they’ll set up nets and compete in a 48-team volleyball tournament – joined by world-class athletes from as far away as Brazil – for thousands of dollars in cash and hopes to help build a Canadian tour to develop the sport. domestically.

The Stampede Open Beach Volleyball Tournament is set to provide action for Calgarians July 7-10.

“I’m 33 now, so 33 I’d say,” Saxton, a 2016 Olympian and Stampede Open tournament chair, said when asked how long he’d considered having such a gala held in his home. court. “Pretty much as soon as I started playing, I wanted to play any of these big events in front of my friends and family here in Calgary.

“Playing in Edmonton was as close as ever to playing at home,” Saxton continued. “All my friends and family were really excited to be able to see me perform in person there rather than trying to find me on some kind of obscure YouTube channel. And so as an athlete, it’s really special for me to do something like that.

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Specifically, it is a four-day Alberta XL event featuring 24 men’s teams, 24 women’s teams and $40,000 in prize money.

The hope is that it is big enough to attract the best players from across Canada – especially those from Alberta and British Columbia and those who have thrived on the international stage – and other major nations in beach volleyball, potentially including American brothers Riley and Maddison McKibbin and Canadian twin sisters Nicole and Megan McNamara.

“The response has been pretty high,” said Claire Crossfield, one of the Stampede Open’s directors and a Calgarian aiming to win her hometown tournament. “We are lucky to have connections in Brazil and in the Brazilian volleyball community, and from what we know there could be a qualification process in Brazil to bring the teams here. And if you know something thing about Brazilian volleyball, it’s always amazing.

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So Saxton & Co. are understandably excited.

“These international teams add a bit of hype and a certain class to the event,” Saxton said. “Local players play against each other all the time, so they know each other very well… But being able to experience other teams from outside of Alberta – even those from BC and Canadian national teams – is just another level of what the teams here are used to. Top players from different fields make the tournament stronger.

But the ultimate goal is to help make Canadian beach volleyball stronger.

By aligning the Stampede Open with the well-established Vancouver Open scheduled for a week later, Saxton and the others are seeing the start of something special developing for their sport and its athletes.

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They hope that two national events will become three – and so on.

“Having a long-term Canadian tour is part of our vision,” said Saxton. “It’s about building a Canadian tour, one tournament at a time. This Vancouver Open is quite well established, but it’s the only one in Canada. So this one will run first and Vancouver will run next weekend. And then in the future we hope to add some more stops in Canada as well.

“A tour like this gives athletes a chance to play locally because not everyone can afford to travel overseas,” continued Saxton, who is also the founder and commissioner of National Beach Volleyball. League. “Our national federation doesn’t pay athletes to play internationally, so it ends up coming out of our pocket most of the time. Having domestic tournaments allows you to increase your own individual level without having to spend it all out of pocket, so in the long run this will raise the level of Canada’s international players.

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Meanwhile, the committee, which is working to line up a broadcast partner, is also trying to raise money by hosting the event during the Calgary Stampede, hoping to attract both festive tourists and locals. Calgarians. A beer garden among the four courts to be created – including the main court stadium that can accommodate nearly 2,000 fans – should help attract them to southwest Calgary.

So the feeling is that the timeslot is great.

“It’s a celebration,” said Sport Calgary president and CEO — and decorated Olympian — Catriona Le May Doan. “It will be a community event – a high performance but community event – and that’s how a sporting event should be. You celebrate the highest level, but you also inspire the next generation.

“I’m sure in sports after the Stampede Open you’ll see kids saying, ‘I want to play this,’ because now it’s possible,” added Le May Doan. “And I think that’s one of the most important things when you give high-level (athletes) an opportunity. You are also an example for grassroots football (children) and help build the club.

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