Schalk To Make His USA World Tour Debut In Doha 

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, March 8, 2021 - It was a funny moment for Chaim Schalk to identify as the one that he knew his new partnership with Theo Brunner would work. 

They were playing their first match as a team, against Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb in the United States country quota, playing off to see who would take the trip to Doha for this week’s 4-star tournament. Schalk and Brunner had lost the first set, 17-21, and as they were sitting in their boxes, Schalk had to admit it: he was having a blast.

“I was just like ‘I’m having so much fun. I’m enjoying this. We lost the first set and whatever, man, this is the start of a partnership for us,’” Schalk said. “Sure enough we started getting better every point and started making more plays and ended up winning. He trusts me and I trust him.” 

It was no small moment, for either team. Bourne and Crabb lost an opportunity to solidify their positions as the second-ranked American team in the Olympic race to Tokyo, with Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena hot on their heels. Schalk, meanwhile, finally just gets to put on a United States jersey. 

After competing in the Rio Olympics with Ben Saxton – they finished ninth – Schalk played one more season for Canada before transferring federations to represent the United Sates. This came with a two-year probationary period, limiting Schalk to compete exclusively on the AVP Tour in 2018 and 2019 – and then again in 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic all but shut down international competition. 

It was this exact same country quota a year ago where Schalk could have made his debut. He and Chase Budinger lost to Billy Allen and Stafford Slick, thus delaying – though nobody knew this at the time – his debut as an American on the World Tour until Doha of 2021.   

“When we got through it was really cool because I didn’t even think about it before,” Schalk said. “It’s crazy to think that I’m going to a top level tournament and I’m in the tournament and it’s finally happened, which is just a really cool thought. I’ve waited so long for this and I finally get to play. It’s time to start the grind again. It’s something I haven’t done in a long time but I’m energised to do it. It’s exciting for me for sure.” 

It’s exciting on a number of levels, both personally for Schalk and holistically for the United States. With Phil Dalhausser and Jake Gibb set to retire, after nearly two decades of dominance, there are holes to fill, and nobody is entirely sure how they’re going to be filled.

The budding partnership of Schalk, who has already proven he can qualify for and compete in the Olympic Games, and Brunner, who was on track to compete for a spot in Rio before Dalhausser poached Nick Lucena, adds an elite team to the mix.

They’re close to the same age – Schalk is 34, Brunner 35 – and phase of life. They both have young daughters who play together while their dads practise. They enjoy working with Scott Davenport, their new coach. While Schalk is reviving his international career with a new jersey, Brunner is reinvigorating his with a newfound sense of enthusiasm. 

“We played pretty well,” Schalk said of the country quota match, their first as a team. “We were a little sloppy at first, just feeling it out, figuring it out. We hadn’t played all that much so we kinda just went into it and said ‘Let’s play and have fun and see what happens’ and we just got better and better. We just have a good vibe between me and Theo. We’ve got a good chemistry for sure.”