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Pan Am profile: The bromance of Canada's beach volleyball duo

Last Updated Jul 23, 2015 at 5:25 pm EDT

The two men walk side by side in stride with only a few feet separating them. One has dark brown hair with a slight curl to it; the other has blond hair that is normally pulled back with a backwards ball cap. As they swoosh the sand under their matching red and white shoes they stand almost exactly the same height. Only one centimetre separates them, “virtually the same height,” one of them says.

They have a comfort between them, unspoken and relaxed, as if they’ve known each other for decades.

Canada’s Josh Binstock and Sam Schachter are in their third year of playing together and competed at home for the Pan Am Games in men’s beach volleyball.

The two, nine years apart, had never met before becoming partners even though they both grew up in Richmond Hill and lived a five-minute drive from each other.

Binstock, 34, attended Richmond Hill High school and then went to the University of Toronto. He has “Dr.” in front of his name as he works as a chiropractor at Total Health Wellness Centre when he’s not on the sand.

“He’s the strategy guy, said Schachter. “(He’s) the veteran who knows how to play the chess match that is volleyball.”

In 2012, Binstock competed for Canada at the 2012 London Olympics. Schachter jokes that his partner does most of the talking when the two are around people and that as a player, Binstock has intensity and fire.

Binstock’s previous partner, Martin Reader, retired shortly after the Olympics when the team finished 17th place. Binstock was then on the look-out for a new partner and when he saw Schachter, it was a no-brainer.

Schachter, 25, who went to Westmount Collegiate Institute, was coming through the program on the national team when Binstock saw the potential and thought the team dynamic would work. He called Schacter, who was not expecting it, and they discussed the possibility over the phone.

“I made the cut, barely,” laughs Schachter. “I got picked up by an Olympian.”

Together the duo has brought the Canada flag onto three podiums at the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) World Tour and snagged a gold medal during the 2014 Parana open changing history for Canada being the first team in 12 years to grab the title.

Josh Binstock, left, and Sam Schachter are shown in an undated handout photo. The duo won Canada's first title in 12 years on the international beach circuit this past season and now have their sights set on the Rio Olympics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho-Volleyball Canada
Josh Binstock, left, and Sam Schachter are shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho-Volleyball Canada

 

Being home in Toronto and having 5,000 people watching is an amazing feeling for the two.

They just returned home from Switzerland before their first day of competition and were pleasantly surprised with the stadium and venues at the Pan Am Games, even if it meant playing with a different sized volleyball.

“We have the crowd cheering for us instead of against us,” said Binstock. “We haven’t hosted an event on the world stage in many years so it’s fun.”

“If there’s ever a tough moment or if we are tired, we know we are not just playing for ourselves but we are playing for all the people watching,” said Binstock.

With similar personalities, the two are emotional players on the court and say they get along really well, but spending everyday together also means you have to get used to each other’s habits, good and bad.

Schachter said Binstock does this thing when he drinks and it drives him nuts. He demonstrates it, which can only be explained through this reenactment:

The two have their distinct roles; Binstock in charge of nutrition, supplements and training whereas Schachter takes care of directions, airports and hotels. “We fill in each others gaps,” said Schachter.

“Complimentary” is the word Binstock uses to describes their bromance over the past three years.

Binstock is flirting with the idea of leaving the sport, but not until the duo makes it to the Rio 2016 Olympics. “Olympics is the ultimate goal for sure, [Pan Am Games] is a building block because Sam hasn’t experiences this type of level,” he said.

He also adds that before he said he would leave the sport after the last Olympics.

Binstock said he would be Schachter’s agent, with a laugh.

“He has to screen them all [potential partners] and give the approval,” said Schachter.

At the world stage everyone is so talented so it was important for Binstock to find someone with a strong mental game.

“This guy was saving matches all the time,” said Binstock. “It didn’t matter if it was near the end, he had that warrior fight and spirit that resonates with me.”

Most partners run for “Olympic quads,” or four-year runs, but Schachter said if you find the right person it can last up to 10 years.

“It’s rare but it can happen,” he said.

** Update: The pair were eliminated from medal contention in the Pan Am Games beach volleyball quarterfinals on Saturday. They finished in eighth place.