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Controversy strikes as Canadians upset Americans in beach volleyball

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TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 01: Heather Bansley #1 of Team Canada celebrates with Brandie Wilkerson #2 against Team United States during the Women's Round of 16 beach volleyball on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Shiokaze Park on August 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
The Canadians are off to the quarterfinals, but their win wasn't without controversy. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)


The Canadian beach volleyball duo of Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson are officially moving on to the Olympic quarterfinals after defeating the U.S. pair of Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes, but there are some American fans wondering just how “official” the win might actually be.

Tied at one set apiece, a controversial replay challenge in the third and deciding set had the beach volleyball world abuzz.

Up 12-11 in the third set, Bansley and Wilkerson decided to let a Sponcil serve go by, assuming it was out. The line judge agreed, and Canada was originally awarded the point.

Then things got strange.

The Americans, who came into the match undefeated in group play, decided to use one of their challenges and appeared to win the point, according to the TV replay.

But the replay continued and after a lengthy review, the referee deemed the ball was indeed out and once again awarded the point to Canada.

Apparently, part of the reason for the confusion came down to the operator pressing the wrong button, leading to “challenge successful” displaying across the TV screens.

Unfortunately for the audience at home, that explanation did not come until after the match, so American beach volleyball fans were left sitting at home understandably tense and confused.

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Sponcil was furious with the call and was given a yellow card for her continued protest after the point was officially awarded to Canada.

Up 13-11 as a result, Canada would serve to Sponcil on the ensuing point, where she mishit the return leading to an easy Canadian point. They would go on to take the pivotal third set 15-13, securing their spot in the quarterfinals.

Even though the call ended up going in their favour, Bansley admitted to being unsure of what was going to happen in the moment.

“It was a little confusing, on one side it said ball out and said challenge successful,” Bansely told CBC after the match. “It wasn’t clear if they were giving the point to us or USA. The ref just said ‘wait, wait’ she was getting more info.”

With the win official, the Canadian pair will take on the winner of the Russian Olympic Committee and Latvia on Aug. 3.

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