Two of the world's best U-21 volleyball players will compete this weekend at the Vancouver Open amid a field of Canadian national team players in a year when the country is sending a men's and women's team to the Summer Games.
2011 was a banner year form Melissa Humana-Peredes and Victoria Altomere. The pair, both from Ontario, won silver at the U-21 world championships and bronze at the Canadian championships. In 2010 they were Canada's national champions.
Both are members of the national beach volleyball team. Humana-Peredes will partner with Manitoba's Taylor Pischke in the Vancouver Open and Altomare will play alongside Caleigh Whitaker, also with team Canada.
Vancouver's Jamie Broder, who now trains with the Canadian team in Toronto at the national training centre, is one of B.C.'s top players looking to challenge for a top-place finish.
"Being able to get all of our best athletes playing against each other raises the level and prepares the athletes to play on the world tour and eventually make the Olympics," said Volleyball B.C. communications manager Brian Hiebert.
Canada's men's and women's volleyball Olympians are training oversees to prepare for London and won't be at Kitsilano Beach. The men's pair, Christian Redmann and Ben Saxton, are both previous winners of the Vancouver Open although they played and won separately.
Their success and Olympic status will give a boost to Canadian beach volleyball players this weekend, said Hiebert.
"Both of them are past champions of our event. The team that is going to the Olympics, in the past they've won this tournament."
Teams play Friday until 5:30 p.m. to qualify for the last seeds in the 32-team tournament. Action Saturday begins at 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. and the main draw medal rounds are set for Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Bimini Public House (2010 West Fourth Ave.) hosts a social Saturday evening.
The tournament is free for spectators and centre court holds 1,500 people. Forecasts for warm weather and sunshine will mean large crowds, said Hiebert.
"The weather is going to be great so it's going to be packed."
Last year, rain kept turnout low. About 1,000 viewers watched the finals, he said.
"We still had a pretty decent crowd despite the weather. It rained for most of the time. We had really good weather in '09 and 2010 [_] it was just like it's been the last few days: perfect."