Beach Pro Tour - News

Melissa Humana-Paredes

Canada’s Melissa Humana-Paredes & Brandie Wilkerson have been partners for only one international season, but their pair has already made it all the way up to number four in the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Ranking, looking forward to more success in 2024 with their minds set on succeeding at the Paris Olympics.

Young Melissa, now 31 years old, started playing beach volleyball at the age of 12 and, four years later, was already representing Canada internationally. In the early days of her career, she collected three medals from age-category world championships. When she was only 18, she won a 2011 FIVB U21 World Championship silver alongside Victoria Altomare. That year, she made her debut on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour. In 2013 and in 2014, Melissa Humana-Paredes & Taylor Pischke picked up two FIVB U23 World Championship bronze medals. In those years, Melissa earned her first senior-level international podiums on the NORCECA continental tour.

But it was not until she teamed up with Sarah Pavan in late 2016 when Melissa claimed her first World Tour medals. From 2017 to 2022, the pair collected five gold, seven silver and two bronze medals on the World Tour, including a runner-up spot at the 2021 Finals in Cagliari, one gold on the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour, two Commonwealth Games titles and, most importantly, the 2019 world title at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship in Hamburg. Melissa also made her Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021, where she and Sarah reached the quarterfinals.

However, right after Melissa & Pavan triumphed at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games in August that partnership came to an end and the 1.75m-tall defender joined forces with Brandie in November. They had already clicked when they played together as friends at the AVP Tour Chicago Open in the United States in September and grabbed a prestigious silver. In 2023, Melissa & Brandie appeared at nine Beach Pro Tour events and the World Championship in Mexico and always achieved at least a fifth-place finish. They took two gold medals, at the Jurmala Challenge and the Montreal Elite16, and a bronze at the Ostrava Elite16, in addition to a silver medal at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago.

Melissa & Brandie are preparing for the upcoming 2024 season of the Beach Pro Tour, during the first half of which they hope to secure their ticket to the Paris Olympics. They are already seeded directly in the main draw of the first Elite16 stop of the year, from March 5 to 9 in Doha.

Meanwhile, Melissa kindly took time for an exclusive Volleyball World interview.

How is your off-season going? What have you been up to?

“Off-season was busy, quick and fulfilling. I recently moved across the country after the Beach Pro Tour Finals in Qatar, so I only had about 6 days before the holidays to settle into the new place. It's so cosy and nice to finally have a place I can call ‘home’, even though I probably won't spend much time in it until after Paris as I'm now back in LA prepping. I spent a lot of time with family, flying back and forth for the holidays to see all my loved ones and eating all the delicious foods. I stayed active, doing everything except volleyball! Since moving to the West Coast, I have spent a lot of time outside in nature. It's so peaceful. I loved it, it felt great!”

What are some of the other fun things you've been doing outside beach volleyball?

“I have been doing a lot of Pilates. I went to some incredible musicals in Toronto, binge-watched ‘Captains’ on Netflix (so good!). I have been spending time outside in nature, cold-plunging in the ocean, and a lot of interior decorating for the new place.”

You've been partners with Brandie for over a year now. What is your evaluation of that partnership so far?

“I think we proved to be consistently in the top five from early in our partnership. The timing of when we got together was challenging because it was the start of the Olympic qualification, so we had that added pressure of needing to perform right away to get Olympic points while figuring out new systems and getting into rhythm as a new team. We were learning as we were playing, which turned out to be such a fun challenge with Brandie! I think we learned really quickly and tasted what we can accomplish, but we still have more to learn and that's the most exciting part. I left the 2023 season proud that we hit our marks, but also hungry, because I know there's another level to us.”

You and Brandie were also indoor volleyball teammates. Tell us about that and how it relates to your current partnership.

“Yes we go way back! I think having this history as previous teammates and knowing each other as people (in a formative time in our lives), gives us such appreciation and respect for how much we've evolved, both as athletes and as humans. It laid a really solid and trusting foundation for us to hit the ground running when we joined forces. I think we both had an idea of who the other was, and to see how we've simultaneously changed and also stayed true to who we are, has been such an exciting part of this journey. Even though we’ve known each other for over a decade ago, we are still learning about each other. It's been so fun.”

What would make a successful 2024 season for you?

“Oh, wow, so many things! 2024 is such an exciting year! I think we've got our goals clear for Paris 2024, and there are also so many steps ahead of that we want to accomplish too. Ultimately, waking up everyday excited to train and grinding through the hard days with a special group of wonderful humans is the best part.”

How hard is it to open a champagne bottle?

“12/10 hard. Sometimes I get more nervous to open champagne after the matches than actually playing in the matches. It doesn't get easier, but thankfully, some of the bottles I get to open are already open.”

If you could pick anybody in the world, other than Brandie, as your beach partner, who would it be and why?

“I would pick another defender so we could split-block (or peel a lot, ha-ha). I've always wanted to monster-block! Probably my hermana Mariafe (Artacho Del Solar).”

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