2018-10-09 11:45:00 CEST
The Canadian returns after a baby break and will have tough competition for an Olympic berth – but she’s fine with it
The already strong pool of female Canadian players competing in the World Tour is about to have a massive addition as Rio 2016 Olympian Kristina May is ready to resume her beach volleyball career after being away from the sands for the last 14 months.
The 31-year-old blocker, who was the first female player from the country to ever win a gold medal in the World Tour alongside former partner Jamie Broder back in 2015, last competed in Long Beach, in July 2017, when she found out she was expecting her first son, Maxwell.
Six months after the birth of Max, Kristina is on the final steps of her return to the sport as the 1.88m-tall player is entered to compete in the four-star event in Las Vegas next week, for which the team was granted a wildcard to the main draw.
“I love being a mom, it’s something I always wanted in my life”, she told beachmajorseries.com. “It was good to take a break and relax, but after being removed from training and competing for a year I missed the sport. I love playing and being on the sand and I’m very happy that I’m still able to keep it a big part of my life.”
262 Likes, 10 Comments - Kristina May (@kstinav) on Instagram: "Thanks to all for the wishes 🎈 Safe to say this was the best birthday ever! ☺️"
When she returns, Kristina will need to be ready to face the exhausting journey of being a mom and a top-level athlete. But she’s already going through it as she resumed training six weeks ago and, don’t worry, she’s got a true army eager to help her taking care of the little Max.
“I wouldn’t be able to pursue my love for volleyball and be a mother if it wasn’t for the help I get from my husband, John, and my family,” she said. “My mom, dad and even my brothers have also been so great in helping take care of Max. He’s usually pushed around in a stroller at the beach where I train and as soon as I finish practice I go over to him and feed him. We have a nice little routine that works for us.”
With Max’s routine taken care of, Kristina’s focus is on regaining her best shape. The physical blocker, who has played in 75 World Tour events since 2009, has been progressing towards her best form and, with almost a month until the tournament in Vegas, she’s confident she’ll be able to show her top game when she returns to the World Tour.
“My pregnancy went pretty smoothly, the only issue I had was feeling very tired,” Kristina recalled. “I did yoga throughout it, but I certainly lost some of my strength and fitness during those months, so I am now working on getting back in shape. The recovery has been going very well and I feel I am getting stronger every day. I hope that I am able to play to the best of my ability when I get there.”
The Canadian, on the other hand, doesn’t have to worry about finding a partner as she will return to her last teammate Taylor Pischke, a two-time bronze medalist in the Under-23 World Championships.
Kristina had just teamed up with Taylor in 2017 after five years with Jamie, but had to stop playing after just five tournaments with her, in a moment when the team was starting to click with a fifth place at the Gstaad Major. During her absence, Jamie and Taylor shared the courts.
“I didn’t follow much beach volleyball in the last year, but I watched them playing together and it was so much fun,” Kristina added. “Taylor and I kept in touch, she has been so supportive and understanding when we were discussing when I would come back to training. I never felt pressure from her. Las Vegas is the first test to see where we are at and we will continue to work from there.”
Her return will happen just one month after the start of the qualification process for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and, as any player in the world, Kristina aims to be in the big stage again after finishing ninth in the Rio 2016 Games with Jamie.
So proud to be Canadian, SO proud to be an Olympian! Remembering the journey and the teamwork on #OlympicDay. @brodes6 @shootermay @mamavaljazz @lennyvaljas @austinvaljas
388 Likes, 3 Comments - Kristina May (@kstinav) on Instagram: "So proud to be Canadian, SO proud to be an Olympian! Remembering the journey and the teamwork on..."
Her and Taylor’s task, however, seems tricky as Canada has two of the best teams in the world right now in Melissa Humana-Paredes/Sarah Pavan and Brandie Wilkerson/Heather Bansley, who combine for six medals in 2018, and each country can have up to two duos in the Olympics.
“To qualify for Tokyo, we would not only have to beat one of the two top Canadian teams, we would literally have to surpass one of the top teams in the world,” she analyzed. “These ladies have impressed me so much with their individual determination, hard work and belief. I admire their achievements and I am also inspired by them.”
“As for me, I am just getting back into the game and who knows where it will lead. Olympic qualification ups the pressure at every tournament, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to play beach volleyball. Having a baby has given me a new perspective on life. It revealed what is really important and it makes me so appreciative of every moment.”
Make sure you enjoy each of them, Kristina! Welcome back!