2019-01-21 16:54:00 CET
The Canadian-born defender has switched federations and will be able to represent the United States in October this year
Ninety nine percent of the top beach volleyball players in the world have put the qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as their top priority for the 2019 World Tour season. Chaim Schalk is one of the few exceptions to the rule.
An Olympian at the Rio 2016 Games, when he represented Canada and finished ninth with Ben Saxton, the 32-year-old defender, who is married to American player Lane Carico, decided to switch federations and play for the United States at the end of the 2017 season.
It happens that according to the rules of the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), a player that switches federations needs to go through a two-year period of international inactivity as part of the process.
The timeline will make Schalk sit out for the bulk of the Olympic qualification process to Tokyo, but he’s fine with that.
“The timing for me is definitely not great for Tokyo,” the defender admitted to beachmajorseries.com. “It will be very difficult for me to qualify with the limited opportunity I will have to compete during qualification. But this decision to change federations was not made under the assumption that Tokyo would be my goal. Though the chance is small, there may still be a shot in the dark to qualify if the right circumstances happen. I want to play beach volleyball for a long time, so the prospect of 2024 will be an exciting one for me.”
Schalk had been a regular on the World Tour in recent years, having competed internationally since 2010, winning one silver and four bronze medals – including a third-place finish at the 2016 Porec Major – all with Saxton, in 67 tournaments.
The Canadian-born player last played overseas at the 2017 World Tour Finals, in Hamburg, and will only be cleared to represent the United States on October 12, 2019. That means he’ll miss the upcoming World Championships, also at the German harbor city, from June 28-July 7. In the 2017 edition, in Vienna, Saxton and Schalk finished fifth after they took down then-reigning Olympic and world champions Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt of Brazil.
“I definitely have missed competing and missed the community overseas,” he explained. “However, it has also been a nice break for me and given me a chance to focus on building domestically in the USA. I am very excited and motivated for the opportunity I will have to compete again on the World Tour and especially the Major Series events. The most difficult event to miss will be the World Championships in Hamburg this year, as I love playing there and love that format.”
Playing, however, hasn’t been an issue for Schalk. Living in Southern California, he dove deep in the American domestic tours, competing in as many as nine events in 2018 – more than several of his counterparts who played internationally. And he achieved some success too, finishing in the top-10 in all of them and earning two podium appearances on the way.
So fun to be competing again on the @avpbeach tour. We went 1-1 today and are looking to keep building tomorrow. Check out streams on Amazon prime. Let's go @ricardobeach1 🏐
293 Likes, 1 Comments - @chaimer on Instagram: "So fun to be competing again on the @avpbeach tour. We went 1-1 today and are looking to keep..."
The defender has paired with three different partners during the year, including Brazilian Olympic champion Ricardo Santos, and has used the extra time he had on his hands to work on his game and prepare for his international comeback, in about nine months from now.
“It has been a change for me not to travel so many months of the year,” he acknowledged. “By far the most difficult part of my switch has been training since the players I have teamed up with do not live in Southern California. But I have loved getting in the sand with a lot of different guys to train and my coach, Evie Matthews, has been great to lean on to help me improve in many different ways. I have focused a lot on getting stronger physically and mentally. On top of that, I have gotten more involved in coaching over the last year or so.”
That extra time, however, is about to dry up in the near future as Schalk and Carico are expecting their first kid, a baby girl, next May. In that sense, the defender has been blessed by the forced break as it will provide him an opportunity not many beach volleyball players have.
“We are very excited to be expecting a baby in May and we can’t wait,” added Chaim. “The timing is great for us, since I will be home to help care for and get to know our baby much more than I would have in years past. I am very happy to be around right now to give Lane as much support as I can.”
241 Likes, 4 Comments - @chaimer on Instagram: "Merry Christmas 🎄🎄🎄"
Once he’s mastered the skills of changing diapers, Schalk will be back in the beach volleyball partner’s market, looking for someone who’s willing to compete overseas. He’s had some success with Tim Bomgren in the American AVP, but the team will not remain together internationally.
The veteran hasn’t looked for a new partner just yet and, as you might imagine by now, he’s fine with that too. As a very talented defender, there should be no shortage of offers when he’s available.
“I have had a blast playing with Tim and we have great chemistry on and off the court,” Schalk commented. “The difficult part of our partnership is the fact that he has a full time job and lives in Minnesota, so training together is not possible. He also does not have aspirations to play overseas so once AVP finishes this year, then I will be looking for a partner for the World Tour. I am not worried about finding someone since players move around a lot in the US and I will work hard to create opportunities to succeed.”