Canadians Wilkerson, Bansley win gold

Canadians Wilkerson, Bansley winning with good vibes

She’s all about the good vibes, Brandie Wilkerson. It’s no wonder, too: The past few months have been, it seems, nothing but good vibes for the world’s top blocker.

Beginning in Itapema, Brazil, in May, Wilkerson won her first FIVB medal, a bronze at the four-star event, which was followed, in succession, by a silver at a four-star in Ostrava and capped by a gold at another four-star in Warsaw. Two weeks later, following a quarterfinal appearance in Espinho, Portugal, Wilkerson and partner Heather Bansley were on the podium again, grabbing a bronze at the Gstaad Major, which preceded a fifth-place finish at the World Championships in Hamburg, Germany.

All of those podiums culminated in Wilkerson being named the FIVB’s Best Blocker and Bansley, for the third time in four years, the FIVB’s Best Defender.

And, oh, they weren’t finished yet. Not even close.

At p1440’s opening event in San Jose, Bansley and Wilkerson battled back from a second-round loss to the hybrid-international team of Taiana Lima and Jolien Sinnema to win five straight matches, claiming gold over Brazilians Maria Antonelli and Carolina Salgado, 21-11, 21-17.

“Our development was similar to a lot of the American athlete in that we both played in university and then went onto play beach volleyball,” Bansley said of Canada’s sudden rise to the top of the beach volleyball world. “I think the success of our Canadian program is, to be honest, due to some hard-working individuals. I know that the top four athletes are very dedicated, very professional and have gone onto be independent and push and want this for ourselves and have created a high-performance training environment, putting themselves out there on the world tour. It’s really exciting to see and I think we’re showing some of our younger athletes in Canada how to do it.”

It seems to be a fair model to follow. Wilkerson acknowledged Bansley for being a role model to her, as she is just her first season playing double-digit FIVB events, still relatively new, as a 26-year-old, to the international scene.

“I have to give it to Heather,” Wilkerson said. “She’s one of those athletes who paved the way and I looked up to her and I’m proud to be here next to her. I think a lot of people look up to us now and it’s just such an honor.”

There will be more opportunities to follow the Canadians as well. There’s p1440 Las Vegas in October, as well as a women’s-only event in Mexico the week after that. Then there’s a two-year push for Tokyo 2020, which, should they qualify, would mark Wilkerson’s first Olympic Games and Bansley’s second.

How are they going to get there?

“High fives,” Wilkerson wrote on Instagram, “and good vibes.”