Chaim Schalk representing Red Deer in Rio

Chaim Schalk and Ben Saxton at a recent event.

From the backyard beach volleyball court he played on growing up to the famous Copacabana beach in Rio, Chaim Schalk has had a lifelong passion for volleyball. This summer, the former Kings Volleyball player will achieve a huge goal by representing Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Chaim and his teammate, Ben Saxton, qualified for the Olympics in June, and the pair will be representing Canada in beach volleyball. “This is a dream come true for me,” Chaim says. “Ben and I have proven that we can medal at the toughest tournaments, so that is our focus. There’s still a ton of preparation that needs to happen before August, but our team is ready for the challenge.”

Long before becoming a professional beach volleyball player, Chaim’s journey began when he was in grade 6 and started playing volleyball at Gateway Christian School in Red Deer. Chaim also played volleyball at home, with his four brothers, and they even convinced their parents to build a beach volleyball court on their acreage near Red Deer. He continued playing at Central Alberta Christian High School, where he credits the strong volleyball program with providing a great experience and taking his game to the next level at that time.

The next step for Chaim was coming to RDC to join the Kings program. “Growing up and watching the Kings made me aspire to be a King, so having that opportunity was amazing for me,” he explains. “RDC was the best volleyball college in the country, and I wanted to learn from Keith Hansen, because he has a great mind for the sport.”

Chaim credits his time at RDC for helping to shape who he is today, as he learned skills on and off the court that he still carries with him. “I learned a ton from the older guys on the team,” he says. “I learned how to win at RDC, and also that hard work is what gets you there. I had the most positive experience possible at the College and wouldn’t be where I am today without those experiences.”

After playing two seasons at RDC, Chaim transferred to Trinity Western University. He decided to officially pursue the beach side of the game after graduating in 2009, and he made the Canadian national team that same year. “I love the beach game because of the skill set it takes to compete at the highest level,” he explains. “You have to be able to perform every skill very well or you will be exposed. This was always something that intrigued me and is essentially why I transitioned to the beach.”

He partnered with Ben Saxton from Calgary in 2013, and the teammates moved to California to train when they’re not away competing on the world tour. “Ben and I have developed as a team a lot over the last four years,” he says. “We’ve always been very hard working, and we both wanted to get to the next level and make a run at Rio, so we decided to move to California and train with some of the best teams in the world.” Chaim also credits their coach, Jason Lochhead, who they starting working with two years ago, as a big key to their success.

When Chaim leaves for Rio in early August, his lifelong goal of being an Olympian will become a reality, and he considers the different pieces of his life that have helped get him to where he is. “When I was at RDC, Keith influenced me in a huge way,” he says. “I remember him having meetings with me and talking about my potential in the sport. He gave me the confidence that I needed at that time to get to the next level. I remember him believing in me that one day I could make the national team and could aspire for the Olympics. This really stuck with me and motivated me.”

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