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Your Not-for-Profit Voice for Local Sport GREAT GRADS OF 2020


What’s next for Ottawa’s most talented graduating high school athletes?



Year 10, No. 3 • June 24, 2020

Bigger than sport


Cyclist/speedskater won’t let COVID-19 take away his dual Olympic dreams.


: Amid COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, Pam Buisa has stepped up photo: travis prior /ivan world rugby photo rupes

By Brendan Shykora


Ottawa’s new professional basketball franchise is banking its success on familiar faces.

Pam Buisa is the type of person who can’t sit still. At 23 years old, the Ottawa-born rugby player balances work and school with an Olympic-calibre training program. She does this on top of being a student supervisor at the Uni-

versity of Victoria, where she helps students of diverse backgrounds apply for scholarships and bursaries. That’s why when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down her chance to join Canada’s national rugby 7s squad at the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer, Buisa couldn’t stay on the sidelines.

“I thought to myself, I can’t be stagnant. I can’t be content with my position and my role in this community, because it’s served me so much in my development,” she told the Sportspage in early June from Vancouver Island, where she’s lived and trained for the past five years. Alongside a few friends and team-

mates, Buisa created Vancouver Island Steps Up, a community relief fund designed to bridge the gaps in the various forms of financial aid that have been doled out by the provincial and federal governments throughout the pandemic.

BUISA continues on p.7


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Leader of seminal local squad to suit up with Stingers By By Kieran Caitlin Heffernan

Ottawa TFC Telegram

Excellence stems from shared club values

Unity. Growth. Work ethic. Excellence. When Ottawa TFC launched, those were the core values members identified to guide the club. The next task was to ensure that those values were followed throughout all levels of the club at all times. That’s a challenge of course when there are over 3,000 players, but Ottawa TFC General Manager Pavel Cancura says there is nonetheless a noticeable unified spirit across all programs. “You get the sense that everybody knows almost everyone’s name,” signals Cancura. “Though we’re a fairly sizeable club, that tight family feel is still there.” One tool the club uses to spread its values is regular team meetings off the pitch where expectations become reinforced through open discussion. It’s also a huge help that roughly 80% of club’s coaches are past players who absorbed the club’s culture in its Academy. Cancura believes that what sets Ottawa TFC apart from many other clubs is placing a very strong emphasis on developing much more than soccer skills. For instance, coaches don’t advance in the club simply because they post a lot of wins. “It’s based on: how are you connecting with the kids? How are you upholding the values and helping the culture get stronger?” notes Cancura. There are four “corners” that make up a player, he adds – technical, tactical, physical and social/mental. Cancura recently consulted with Kris Van Der Haegen, a coaching director from #1 world-ranked Belgium who emphasized that the social/mental component is the one that truly makes the difference – matching Ottawa TFC’s beliefs. “It’s all about building that corner of the player that’s tied to their character and who they are. It’s really powerful,” Cancura underlines. “Ultimately, that’s what drives how hard you train to get your touch better, how hard you’ll push to become a little faster. The engine to improving all those pieces lies somewhere in your values and your mental and psychological strength.”



Anyone involved in team sports will tell you about the importance of team building and unity, but when it comes to the importance individuals play into that bigger picture, Ottawa TFC coach Pavel Cancura couldn’t have talked more highly than he did about Lauren Curran. “I’m going to talk about (the importance of team building) until the day I die, but sometimes teams are a bit special. And this one was a bit special like that and a lot of it had to do with Lauren,” Cancura said in reference to Ottawa TFC’s U17 women’s team from last year, which won a Canadian title. Curran, a centre back, was a co-captain on that team, which was the region’s first to win a top youth level crown. She’ll be a captain on this year’s team as well, in whichever shape it is the season takes, before she embarks on the next stage of her soccer journey – competing with the Concordia Stingers. That journey began early for Curran. She’s played soccer since she was three years old and has been coaching as well since she was 12. Last year’s odds-defying season was notably special, Curran said, because her team’s success was so unexpected. “We were kind of just happy that we made it to the finals and then I think we started playing and we were like, holy, we’re the better team here. We can win this,” Curran said. “So once the final whistle blew, honestly our team just went crazy.” She credits a lot of her team’s success to its coaching. Curran and Cancura have known each other since Curran was nine, which has allowed them to develop a strong connection. How she values their bond is part of why she decided to commit to Concordia. “When Concordia reached out to


photo: dan plouffe

me, and I had visited the campus and the coaches a couple times, something about it just felt right,” she said. “It felt like home almost and I had a good connection with the coaches, and that was something that’s very important for me because I have a good connection with Pav, my coach right now, and that’s very important to me.” Cancura has equally high praise for one of his star pupils. “She’s become one of the better leaders I’ve ever really come across out of our club,” said Cancura, who coached with Cumberland United for more than a decade before it was folded into the Ottawa TFC partnership almost two years ago.

“She’d be the type of person who would understand that when a team’s nervous they need to laugh. So she would come with a sense of humour to that day and just be a goof with everybody and kind of help ease the tension,” he explained. Teenagers with good social skills aren’t rare, Cancura said, but with Curran “the rare thing is to be able to influence people in not only a positive direction but a specific direction.” Curran said she thinks she gained those skills from growing up seeing her older brothers play soccer at a high level (her brother Graeme was the captain of Royal Military College’s team). At the end of June, Curran will graduate from St. Peter Catholic High School. She’ll be studying exercise science at Concordia, with hopes that she’ll one day become an athletic trainer. What the Stingers will get with her is a “really, really good defender, (a) very hard tackler, (who) barely ever misses a challenge, (and) is very good in the air winning balls,” according to Cancura. The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the start of the soccer season, forcing Curran’s team to shift to training via Zoom, five times a week. Cancura has been impressed with his team’s ability to take the pandemic in stride. Curran said it’s been “mentally tough,” especially for her and her teammates who are graduating this year, but training together helps. “Just seeing my teammates every single morning on Zoom, even though it’s through a computer, they help you, even when you wake up and you don’t want to train that day. They just help you stay positive. We’re all in it together so it’s good that it’s a good group of girls that I’ve grown up with,” she said.

Highly-touted water polo prospect turned into fish out of water By Laura Nelson

Cancura was proud to see the club’s values on full display when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. There were zero complaints about the circumstances, and everyone pulled together to put in countless hours and develop a Virtual Training program. “It’s amazing for me to look on the wall here and see a projection of 20 players who are training in their basement or their garage and working their butts off, smiling and talking together,” Cancura details. “Look how much they’re willing to put in. Man, you see unity, you see the growth mindset, you see the work ethic and you see them striving for excellence. I mean, you’ve got all the values right there.”

Lauren Curran

The new coronavirus brought about significant and sudden changes for all, and for Mackenzie Greco it meant the abrupt end to her final year of high school and the premature conclusion of her season in the pool. The 18-year-old Greco plays water polo competitively with the Capital Wave Water Polo Club, who she previously co-captained a team with to win a national silver medal, when she played at the U16 level. Soon, she’ll advance to a spot on the water polo team at Marist Col-

Mackenzie Greco

photo: steve marissink lege, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where she will also study athletic training. “It will be a huge change,” Greco said. “I am ecstatic, and my mind was blown that I was accepted, and the coach liked me.”

While she plans in the fall to attend the college, which recently announced a number of changes to how classes will be taught because of COVID-19, she’s also preparing for having to spend her first year of university studying online. The coronavirus, however, hasn’t stopped Greco’s dedication to her sport, as she’s continued training and doing cardio four to five times a week during the pandemic. “I have tried to stay positive for my friends and family to get through this together and be ready to get back in the pool,” Greco said.

More recently, Greco was finally able to return to the water. After being out of the pool for two-and-a-half months through the early spring, she’s been able to practise at a friend’s lakefront property. “The first month was hard for me not being in the pool, (it’s) my safe place, and it’s where I can forget about all my problems,” Greco said. She added that the cancellations of season-ending tournaments was “heartbreaking,” given that she wasn’t able to follow through with competing for a championship with her teammates.



Graduating Ridgemont runner lives life in the Fast lane By Riley Evans Elite-level student athletes are a special breed – they’re expected to mix sport, studying and a social life and even sometimes part-time work – but when it comes to Joe Fast, the Ridgemont High School student truly makes you question whether or not there are actually only 24 hours in a day. Fast, 17, grew up playing a number of sports. Early in high school he wrestled, played rugby and volleyball before falling in love with track. He started out running the 800-metre before trying the 1500m, which would become his signature event. In 2018, he won gold in the OFSAA junior boys 1500m and in the 1500m at the U18 provincial championships. He even made the finals of the under-20 Canadian championships in the event that year, as a 15-year-old. “I love running because I feel like it’s a sport where you get out of it what you put into it,” said Fast. “Obviously there’s a talent factor too, but it’s the hard work that gets you results.” Fast’s work ethic on the track is matched, if not somehow surpassed, by his efforts off of it. He managed to secure the highest grade point average in his class for both Grade 9 and 10, and while he was never told where he ranked in Grade 11, it was likely in the same vicinity. “Whatever Joe does, he puts 150 per cent into it,” said Katherine Lalonde, who coached Fast at Ridgemont, but also taught him in grades 9 and 10. “When he hands something in, it’s not just good. It’s above and beyond every time.” When asked for a story that defined Fast, Lalonde recounted a time where, the night before an OFSAA race, Fast insisted on going straight back to the

Joe Fast

photo: dan plouffe

hotel after dinner so he could finish a law paper before bed, rather than ask for what she believed would have been a very warranted extension. While highly impressive in his ability to balance multiple priorities, Fast said that he isn’t always perfect, and has had the propensity to overextend himself. The desire to achieve academic perfection has often kept him up into the early hours of the morning. He says the consistent lack of rest and recovery led to a dip in his running performance in 2019, where he failed to win the 1500m amongst senior boys at OFSAA.

“I think it was a big learning experience for him,” said Eleanor Fast, Joe’s mother. “He had to learn to say no to things sometimes.” In addition to schoolwork and athletics, Fast also immersed himself into his high school community, having apparently inherited a niche for advocacy from his mother. Eleanor ran in the last provincial election and is now the executive director of Equal Voice, an organization dedicated to electing and supporting women at all levels of public office. The younger Fast was Ridgemont’s student council president and expressed the desire to expand the council’s role in student life, as well as use his platform to push on behalf of students at large. In 2019, he led a protest at Ridgemont against cuts to education funding. Looking out for others is a common theme when it comes to Fast, those close to him said. “He’s always the first person in line to cheer on a teammate, or pick someone up when they’re down,” said Lalonde. Even as COVID-19 wiped out what would likely have been his final high school season, his first thoughts were of other students who had also lost their last chance to achieve some of their goals. “I obviously would have liked to finish my last season,” he said. “But the fact that I was already able to accomplish a lot definitely took the sting off. I honestly feel worse for people who hadn’t had the chance to go to OFSAA yet, or hadn’t been recruited.” Fast instead turned his attention to what lies next. He plans to attend Princeton in the fall. True to form, Fast chose an Ivy League education over more elite running schools that were interested in him.

Ottawa’s latest breakout hooper set for next challenge By Ethan Diamandas On the court, Louth Coulibaly is a force to be reckoned with. At 6’8” and 220 pounds, the 19-year-old power forward passes the eye test with flying colours. “I was always taller than everyone,” said Coulibaly, who grew five inches over his high school years. As Coulibaly grew in stature, his physicality in the paint quickly became the most dominant part of his game. With highlight-reel dunks and ferocious work on the glass, Coulibaly proved to be a budding superstar in Ottawa. Hype grew around him in recruiting circles as he aver-

Louth Coulibaly

photo provided

aged 13.8 points and 11.4 rebounds during an outstanding 2019-2020 campaign with Ottawa’s Canada Topflight Academy (CTA). As the season progressed, scouts from the United States began realizing Coulibaly had what it took to compete in the NCAA. “When I started getting coaches to recruit me, I re-

alized that I could really do something with basketball,” Coulibaly said – and sure enough, interest came in tow. After mulling offers from about a dozen U.S. schools, Coulibaly decided on Holy Cross, a NCAA Division I college in Worcester, Massachusetts. His commitment became official in April and Coulibaly is set to receive a full scholarship. “There’s a lot of freshmen coming in and I feel like I have all my chances there,” Coulibaly said. “It’s a big opportunity for me and I felt like I had to take it.” While Coulibaly has had a successful pre-collegiate career, his journey to the

cusp of NCAA Division I ball has been quite unique. Coulibaly was born in Ivory Coast and moved to France with his family when he was just three years old. It was there his father, Adama, introduced him to basketball at the age of five. Coulibaly’s family eventually immigrated to Ottawa in 2014, settling in the Lees Avenue neighbourhood. In Ottawa, Coulibaly trained on a regular basis with Carleton Ravens assistant coach Aaron Blakely. It was during this time Coulibaly discovered what the Ottawa basketball community truly had to offer.

COULIBALY cont’s p.7

OSU Force Academy Zone OSU builds character during pause

The pre-season pandemic stung like a tackle from behind with cleats up, but Ottawa South United Soccer Club rose back up to keep players connected and support their development before their long-awaited return to the pitch. OSU garnered very positive feedback from members and parents as close to 1,000 players participated in a total of 10,000+ online sessions, reaching well beyond Ottawa South into homes across Canada. “I’ve got to give praise to our coaches and our staff,” says OSU Head Coach Paul Harris. “They adapted really, really quickly, and they kept our players motivated throughout this difficult period. “The kids were finding it hard. It’s hard when you’re missing your friends and you just want to get out there and play. They did a fantastic job keeping the kids involved and keeping their spirits high.” Among OSU’s initiatives was a speakers series featuring the likes of the FC Barcelona women’s team captain, former pro players and coaches from top English clubs such as Everton, Wigan Athletic and Crewe Alexandra, a FIFA player agent, and leaders from many Canadian university programs. Though the speakers’ involvement in the game came from many different perspectives, “there was a common message that was apparent, and that was that the key to success is largely character-based,” recounts Harris. “Of course they’re looking for talented players. But what they really want is individuals with a high level of character who are highly dedicated, self-motivated, and willing to work hard and not stop.” Under the remote guidance of their coaches, OSU players kept busy during lockdown by working on ball manipulation in tight areas and outdoors, along with strength training. They assembled video highlights and player profiles for university recruitment and analysis. There was also an emphasis on team-building, with game-show style quizzes for players to get to know each other better. Activities to promote tactical, psychological and social development were part of the mix too, such as players presenting to teammates on a given soccer topic. “We weren’t really working on football in this case, it was really working on them as all-around people,” signals Harris, noting the pandemic produced increased collaboration and sharing of ideas between clubs across Ontario often pitted against one another. That became helpful when it came time to create a session plan for 9 players and a coach while respecting physical distancing. Despite those restrictions, getting the chance to train together as a group was nonetheless treasured when it happened at last on the June 20 weekend. “Everyone’s been at home with their own families of course, but our teams feel like families too, so it’s been really difficult to be apart for so long,” Harris highlights. “It doesn’t quite ressemble the training we’re used to and that everyone’s craving, but it just felt so good to get everyone reunited.”

SPEED TRAINING WITH REDBLACKS RB In anticipation of game play returning this summer, OSU is currently offering training opportunities at George Nelms Sports Park, including Speed Camp with Ottawa Redblacks runningback Brendan Gillanders. “He’s a physical specimen,” Harris says of the Ottawa-raised CFLer. “He has to accelerate and move quickly over 10, 15, 20 yards. That’s down to his mechanics, how he builds his power and his acceleration. “Even though it’s different sports, what we’re looking to do is help our players get faster and more powerful, which they need in soccer.”




Top volleyball prospect makes move to Marauders By Sophie Bernard

Ottawa Girls Hockey Report

OGHA ‘hungry’ to get back and continue building a bright future for female hockey

With no pro leagues and the big international tournaments cancelled, it was a largely depressing season overall for the world’s best women’s hockey players, but spend 5 minutes watching a Bauer/NHL First Shift session put on by the Ottawa Girls Hockey Association and it’s impossible not to feel energized about female hockey’s next generation. @OGHAhockey With an abundance of smiles, facebook.com/Ottawaspills and cheers, a full-capacity Girls-Hockey-Associationgroup of 45 youngsters got their first OGHA-319499598525472/ taste of hockey on weekends at Jim Durrell Recreation Centre. Directing the program was an all-female crew of coaches and on-ice volunteers, and perhaps most encouraging was the high proportion of “first-generation” girls’ hockey players taking up the sport. “The diversity was really great to see,” underlines OGHA President James Wojtyk, noting that several of the participating families had just landed in Canada within the past year. “That’s the huge power that program has.” First Shift offers a low financial commitment to try the sport – thanks to the Bauer/NHL sponsorship, the $199 registration included outfitting players in a full set of equipment. “Everything is kind of packaged up for them, and that really takes away a lot of the fear of the unknown,” signals Wojtyk. “I think First Shift was our biggest success this year. It was a great sign for the future of the game.”

OGHA MAKING IT EASY TO GET INTO HOCKEY Novice hockey also became more welcoming this season, with the introduction of half-ice games. There was skepticism about the new approach at the outset, but it wound up being quickly embraced. “Parents saw their kid now touching the puck much more often,” notes Wojtyk, and it increased capacity for everyone to try playing goalie. “The half-ice format is very beneficial for skill development.” A major highlight for the OGHA’s development stream – a program that offers a bridge between house league and competitive hockey – was its tournament on Family Day weekend, which drew triple the entries this year and rave reviews. The Metro Ottawa Girls House League also expanded this season to welcome Gloucester teams on top of Kanata and Ottawa’s. “More teams, more variety, but not nearly as much travel as there used to be,” indicates Wojtyk, a father of four daughters. “The girls and their families really, really enjoyed it.” Ottawa Ice and Lady 67’s competitive teams showed they were an ever-rising force at the top levels. A half-dozen teams qualified for the Ontario Championships, including all ‘AA’ sides, while the Lady 67’s got all the way to the Junior Women’s Hockey League final.

THE NEXT GENERATION OF FEMALE LEADERS OGHA spurred numerous efforts to get more females involved in the sport beyond playing the game. There were coaching mentorship sessions early on, while all players aged Peewee or above were invited to work with the club’s younger members. OGHA held female-only referee clinics for its more senior players, and then got the newly-trained officials started in a “non-pressure” environment with novice half-ice games. The goal is “to give anyone interested the tools and the platform to get going” in leadership roles, and to build character, Wojtyk details, noting referees also enjoyed receiving part-time job income. Beyond learning life skills through hockey, it’s really fun and friendships that remain at the heart of the experience for in the OGHA, which was established in 1999. Many of the first OGHA players now have young daughters playing. “It’s really coming full circle,” reflects Wojtyk, proud to see the association’s membership continue to grow even though central Ottawa doesn’t add new residents at the same rate as suburban organizations. “I think that’s really, really cool.”


As members of the Class of 2020 throw their caps over Zoom calls, Maxime Gratton has his eyes on the next step in his own story – university volleyball. Gratton graduated from École secondaire catholique Garneau in Orléans and will be off to McMaster University this fall to study kinesiology and social sciences. The school recruited him in February to play for their highly ranked U Sports team. “When I heard McMaster was interested it was like a dream come true, and it worked out because I’m already going there next year,” Gratton said. Having been part of the Maverick Volleyball Club throughout his middle and high school career, Gratton’s athletic CV is nothing short of stellar. He became a national champion in 2015, a provincial champion in 2018, and was chosen to be on a variety of Team Ontario and National Team Challenge Cup squads throughout 2017 to 2019. Those on-court accolades won him the Ken Davies Memorial Award last month. The Ken Davies Memorial Award is presented annually by the Ontario Volleyball Association (OVA) to one male student who “demonstrates the qualities of determination, leadership, athletic ability and sportsmanship as exemplified by Ken Davies himself,” as described on the OVA website. Louis-Pierre Mainville, the director of Athlete Development for the OVA, shared his thoughts on Gratton’s newest award and his optimism for the graduating athlete’s future career. “Maxime is very deserving of [the Ken Davies Memorial] award. He is extremely competitive and committed to

Maxime Gratton

photo: dan plouffe

the process he believes will help him achieve his goals [and] he is very demanding of himself and always wants to improve. I have no doubt that the skills he has acquired over the past years will help him achieve success at the post-secondary level and eventually with the national team programs,” Mainville said. Off the club court, Gratton can be found enjoying time with friends, coaching his former middle school’s volleyball team, and fundraising for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which he draws a personal link to. “I’m diabetic. I got diagnosed, and the year after I started playing volley-

ball,” Gratton said. “That was probably the hardest thing I had to do – trying to adjust myself with my new condition to play competitive volleyball.” He hasn’t let his diagnosis get in the way of his success. “Now I’m way better at it. I got used to it. At the beginning everything was new, so it was just really hard to figure everything out.” Due to COVID-19, Gratton’s spring training and competition plans were halted. “[The pandemic] cut my last season short for club, so I missed out on three tournaments, two of them being the most important tournaments of the year, provincials and nationals. I can’t practice volleyball in a gym right now, so it’s definitely making things more challenging,” said Gratton. Gratton’s 18U Mavericks team had been looking to retain the provincial championship they won last year and improve on a quarterfinals-worthy performance they had at the 2019 nationals. Also unable to try out for Canada’s Junior National Team as planned, Gratton’s future school brings forth a different opportunity – fellowship. “They gave out a program for workouts and I follow that program. It keeps me in shape and I stay connected with the guys I’m going to play with next year. It’s different, I’m touching way less of the ball but I’m still staying in shape.” Gratton can’t help but thank his past while looking to his future. “One of my best memories was playing for the youth national team last year and going to Florida and playing in an international tournament. That was incredible… It’s also been spending all my time in club. I’ve played club for seven years and all the years have been amazing with my teammates,” Gratton said.

Provincial champion wrestler keeps optimism during pandemic By Caitlin Kieran Heffernan Heffernan Ismail Ayyoub was, in his own words, pissed. He was supposed to attend the Canadian Championships for wrestling this April, which would have given him the chance at qualifying for Canada’s national team. Then, like so many other athletes, his season was cut short by COVID-19. “Competitions like that, you’re usually cutting weight and you’re on a serious diet plan to make sure you compete at your best,” he explained. Taking all those steps ended up being for nothing. But, the soon-to-be-graduate of Longfields-Davidson

Ismail Ayyoub

file photo

Heights is an optimistic guy. “There are things that I can control in this life and there are things that I can’t,” he said. “What can I control during this time? I can control my training, I can control my diet, I can control my time.” According to Chris Schrauwen, Ayyoub’s coach

at National Capital Wrestling Club, this strong work ethic along with an offensive, upper-body focussed wrestling style are what have made Ayyoub so successful. Schrauwen said he estimates that the average high school wrestler practises around three times a week, but for Ayyoub it’s more like five or six. His hard work has paid off in the form of numerous big wins since he started wrestling in March of 2017, his most recent being gold at both the juvenile and junior provincial championships earlier this year. Wrestling has not only given Ayyoub trophies and titles. To illustrate the impact

the sport has had on other parts of his life, he quoted a line from former wrestler Dan Gable: “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” “I do not disagree one little bit. If you have the right mindset, you’re able to use your wrestling skills, what you learn, what you adapt from wrestling. That to me is success, transitioning one skill to the other,” Ayyoub said. One such skill is perseverance. “With a team sport, you can kind of blame things on other people if you lose,” he said. “But if you lose an individual sport, everything you blame on yourself.”

AYYOUB continues p.7



Capital Courts’ Merissah Russell to embark on NCAA chapter with Louisville Cardinals By Ally Conlon Merissah Russell is taking her talents to the next level after six years of playing basketball in Ottawa. The Capital Courts Academy graduate has made the decision to take her post-secondary studies to the University of Louisville as their first-ever Canadian basketball recruit. She will study sports administration at the university. “Louisville was my first unofficial visit,” she said. “After seeing the campus, I looked at my mom and told her I was going there, and I didn’t need to look anywhere else.” Jeff Waltz, the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals’ women’s basketball team, was similarly drawn to Russell and remembers feeling her appeal to his program when she visited Kentucky. “When she came down the first time there was just a great connection,” Waltz said. “She had a great connection with our staff and with our players, I really believe she felt comfortable.” In time, the 6’1” guard signed with Louisville. Where Russell, her coaches and family were confident in her decision, she said people were

AYYOUB continued from p.6 “So it just kind of gave me that willingness to improve,” Ayyoub added. Being surrounded by people who also want to see him improve has made him a more positive person, Ayyoub said. He felt that support especially when he got to represent Canada at the Cadet Pan-American Wrestling Championships in June 2019. After not qualifying the year prior because he wasn’t a Canadian citizen, making last year’s Pan-Am championships was huge for him. The pandemic, while disappointing, isn’t slowing Ayyoub down too much. He’s been practising in his backyard with his brother, using mats Schrauwen let them bring home. Right now, both Ayyoub and his coach are looking to the future. Ayyoub isn’t sure what his post-secondary plans are yet, so he’ll be taking a gap year to focus on wrestling and working. Nevertheless, Schrauwen has high hopes for him going forward. “The sky’s the limit for that kid. We did take him to this year’s Olympic Trials. I’d say this was more of an experience year for him, because he was young, I’d say, to be making that team. But we think 2024 is probably a reasonable goal for him,” Schrauwen said. But what about even further into the future? Ayyoub’s got that planned out, too. “I’m going to wrestle as long as I can. Once I’m done with wrestling I’m going to coach as long as I can. I’m going to referee as long as I can. I’m going to be involved in the sport as much as I can because it is just something I love to do.”

it’s coach Blizzard. “She believed in me so much. It’s rare you see coaches that want their players off of their team, but she was always putting my name out there and always vouched for me,” Russell said. In discussing her decision to part with coach Blizzard and leave Ottawa to move south, Russell said it’s bittersweet. Life lessons that Blizzard has taught her will stretch far past her time playing basketball, Russell said. For Blizzard, she’s happy to see her protégé advance to a situation fitting for her. “I am happy because she picked the team that suits her style of play,” Blizzard said. “She is so creative she had to go to a coach that would allow her to be her.” When recruiting, Waltz and his team were looking for girls who had enough passion for the game that matched their skill set on the court. Fortunately, he found that in Canada’s capital in Russell. “She has a motor,” Waltz said. “When she’s on the floor I never had to question if she loved the game and that is the most important thing we are looking for as a coach.”

Ever since she was a kid, Russell has strived to be the best at anything she put her mind to. In elementary school she was a part of as many teams as she could possibly make in order to build her game and her character. Basketball was also never the only focus on Russell’s mind. As much as the sport consumed her, so did her education. “[The coaches] that were recruiting her didn’t realize how smart she is,” Blizzard said, who routinely makes a point of stressing Russell’s off-court brilliance in interviews. “Her academics were a priority to the point where if she wasn’t doing well in a subject, I would know by the way she practised.” Transitioning from high school to any form of post-secondary education can be difficult, but Russell – even in her exceptional circumstances – is confident she’s capable of excelling in the challenge that’s ahead of her. “I want to see the potential I have,” said Russell. “Just being in that atmosphere playing against the best of the best, with the best of the best and learning from these teachers and coaches is what I am most excited for.”

BUISA: ‘We need to make a conscientious decision to do something’

COULIBALY continued from p.5

Merissah Russell

constantly asking her if she was sure about her choice. With the help of her parents, coach Fabienne Blizzard of Capital Courts Academy and Louisville’s Waltz, Russell was more than confident. Blizzard was the first person to introduce Russell to high-performance basketball. When Russell was 12, Blizzard had her training on a team with boys three years senior to her. Russell said if there is anyone who knows what’s best for her when it comes to basketball,

continued from Cover In less than three weeks, the fund raised more than $15,000 for people disproportionately affected by the crisis. Single mothers taking care of their children at home, people living with disabilities and international students stranded by border closures – these were among the people who applied for, and received, critical support. “One size fits all methods are a good start, but we are not a one size fits all community,” the fund’s webpage reads. It’s a statement that makes the group’s ethos clear: Vancouver Island is diverse, and the people most in need of support are the people who struggle in ways that aren’t always seen. That idea took on a whole new level of meaning on May 25, when George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in a chilling case of police brutality. Floyd’s death was recorded by bystanders and reverberated around the world, giving new levels of energy and urgency to the Black Lives Matter movement. Once again, Buisa stepped up. It started with a conversation with a friend who reached out on June 1. She told Buisa she was tired, that she couldn’t keep scrolling on her phone and hearing what she was hearing. Viewing instances of racism from afar on social media can be a reminder of the racism that exists much closer to home, as Buisa herself can attest. “When I see something that happens I can only think about my brothers and sisters and my dad and my mom, and how even though it’s in America, it’s in our backyards—whether it’s overt racism or whether it’s a bit more sub-

photo: steph rouss

tle forms of racism,” she said. The two kept talking and started expanding the conversation, and before they knew it they’d organized more than 1,000 people into a social distancing anti-racism rally, complete with a march to the B.C. legislature. Buisa describes the event as somewhat spontaneous, but something the present moment called for. “Literally 50 minutes before the actual event we had just bought a megaphone, and we were like ‘let’s go! Now’s the time!’” She helped organize another rally the following week, this time filling up Centennial Square wallto-wall. For Buisa, the event was about conversing and understanding—but ultimately acting. “I think it’s important, especially now, that we challenge discussions surrounding race and our relationships with our privilege, because in order for us to move forward we need to make a conscientious decision to do something, and not just make it a trend or a hashtag.” Back on the rugby pitch, Buisa had been building momentum when the pandemic overtook the

world. She’d picked rugby up in the seventh grade and continued to play at the competitive level locally with Heritage College CEGEP, the Ottawa Irish and Quebec provincial team before her move out West to play for the University of Victoria. She’s long been associated with the national program, having won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, before winning a gold medal at last summer’s 2019 Pan Am Games. “I found a sport where I can be tall and have a place, I can be strong and I have a place, and I feel like that’s what’s so beautiful about the sport of rugby,” she said. “We possess different qualities, different leadership, different backgrounds, and we’re so diverse—and I think that’s a reflection of Canada.” The road ahead to the next Olympics is an uncertain one, but for Buisa the pandemic has forced her to stay present and live in the moment. “It’s like you do a countdown to the Olympics, you do a countdown to when you have to train, and you almost miss the meaningful moments that are available to you,” she said. Living presently in the current moment means facing a great deal of challenges head-on, but Buisa says the days of staying physically apart have reinforced her core belief in the power of doing things together. “The more I’m in this pandemic the more I realize that depending on people and human interaction and being connected is the most important thing,” Buisa added.

While Toronto is often considered the basketball capital of Canada, Coulibaly said he thinks people forget about Ottawa’s basketball talent. He said this motivated him and his CTA teammates to play a little harder this past season. “A lot of people don’t think that we’re really good when we come from Ottawa because it’s not necessarily a basketball city,” Coulibaly said. “But with Carleton, now CTA and Ottawa U, things are changing and people now know that we can hoop too.” Personally, Coulibaly said he used the underdog status of his adopted hometown to fuel his determination both on and off the court, which has earned him praise from his coaches. “[Coulibaly] deserves all the success he gets because of the time he put in,” said Tony House, the founder of CTA and Coulibaly’s former coach. Now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Coulibaly has been doing everything he can to stay in shape. His new daily routine includes a four-kilometre run, bodyweight exercises like push-ups and sit-ups, as well as consistent work on the courts near the University of Ottawa’s Lees Campus. Eventually Coulibaly hopes his game will take him pro – wherever that may be – but at the moment he says he’s focussed on achieving team success with Holy Cross, beginning in his freshman season. “I’m thinking about that every day, I’m just excited about playing at that level,” Coulibaly said. “It’s the next step, I just can’t wait.”



Ottawa sports groups chart a path through COVID By Charlie Pinkerton

Unsung Hometown Heroes Celebrating the Special People who Drive our Sports Community

Tayler continues to break waves, focuses on third Olympic trip despite delay Two-time Olympian Michael Tayler of Ottawa qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics only two weeks before it was evident COVID-19 had spread across the world. On March 22, 2020, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced it would not be sending our athletes to the Olympics this year. The International Olympic Committee decided in April to postpone the Tokyo Games, and confirmed athletes who qualified for the competition spots would attend the 2021 games. “I feel lucky that my qualification was two with City of Ottawa weeks ahead,” Tayler said. “Some of my team Sports Commissioner members’ were in March, and now they have Mathieu Fleury to wait until next year.” Now, Tayler said, he will keep his eye on the possibility of rescheduled World Cups in 2020, but regardless of what turns out, he will focus on training, get stronger, and be ready for the Olympic Games in 2021. A Nepean High School graduate, Tayler has always called Ottawa home. He completed his undergrad at Carleton University and remains an Ottawa River Runners club member. “Obviously, a lot has changed,” smiled the 28-year-old who made his Olympic debut in London at age 20.

Michael Tayler

Tayler laughs as he comments about how this is probably the longest he has been home in a while – staying with his parents in Westboro, instead of competing in Northern Italy and France as planned prepandemic. “It’s different for sure, being at home. I am adjusting to that,” he said, adding he misses the chance to train on different courses around the world. Ottawa is one of the few cities with its own downtown whitewater rapids course, the Pumphouse (beside Lebreton Flats). The class 2 whitewater site is where a young Michael Tayler took a ride down the course. Now, 20 years later, on a Zoom call, Tayler recalls how his love for the sport grew. “It is a race against the clock as you go down the whitewater,” Tayler said. “You have to use the water; it is more powerful than you are, it’s stronger than you are, so the fastest way is to use the power of the water – I have always loved that. I have loved the sport right from the start. Being on the water – it’s an amazing thing to do.”

Do you know a local sports figure we should feature in the Unsung Hometown Heroes column? Let us know! Contact:

613-580-2482 • mathieu.fleury@ottawa.ca

It’s been months from the last time anyone in Ottawa heard the irreplicable sound of a spiked volleyball reverberating throughout a gymnasium. Kerry MacLean, the president and founder of the Maverick Volleyball Club, was fresh off the phone with fellow club executives when he called the Sportspage in April. They’d been talking bookkeeping – going over expenses, talking budgets, etc. – as would normally be taken care of around June. But this season’s circumstances were anything but normal. For clubs like Maverick, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant there were member fees to reimburse, trip expenses to cancel and unused gym credits to be negotiated. A ton of work for sports organizations this spring came will little reward. “This is probably the worst way it could happen,” MacLean said about the abrupt end to his club’s season. This was supposed to be The Year for a couple of Maverick’s top highschool aged teams, with several considered national medal contenders. Instead, they were handed cancelled year-end celebrations, called-off provincial and national championships and, in some cases, disrupted university recruiting – making for the antithesis of a sports movie ending. In reality, in COVID-19-caused sports limbo, the Mavs followed a similar playbook as other community sports clubs; the club reached out to members to communicate its latest pandemic updates and offered virtual training in the meantime. It’s all it really could do. Meanwhile behind the scenes, MacLean and the rest of the club’s executive sorted through ways to make sure that the nets go back up, when the time comes.

NERVOUS TIMES FOR LOCAL SPORTS CLUBS Unlike the blast of a volleyball, the uncertainty the Maverick club felt was entirely replicable – in fact it was felt widely across Ottawa sports during the spring. As weeks of quasi-lockdown turned into months, many clubs had just been hoping for the best – that the longterm impacts of the pandemic remained just ripples. “I think it would be very naïve to think that no sport is affected,” said Marci Morris, executive director of the Ottawa Sport Council, in an interview in late April.

NEPEAN NIGHTHAWKS The Nighthawks had been close to finishing their winter training when

Sports leaders are navigating how they fit into a global pandemic.

photo: dan plouffe

the pandemic forced a pause on all their activities. It had to shut down a planned trip to Holland as well as its annual trip to Syracuse. It’s spring/summer season was cancelled entirely and while it applied for permits to hold games later in the summer it’s latest online notice only indicates that it hopes to have a positive update come July. “You never know what will happen when you start back up again. Maybe we’ll be wildly popular, maybe we won’t,” Nighthawks co-founder Sandeep Chopra said in late April.

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS The innate hands-on nature of mixed martial arts meant that trainers in Ottawa who spoke to to Sportspage were generally discouraged about when they would be able to return to even somewhat normal instruction. “Martial arts offers a unique form of education you cannot find anywhere else,” said Matt Haché, owner of the Ottawa Academy of Martial Arts. “The longer martial arts schools stay closed the longer we’re damaging something that’s a true gem to the community.”

RECREATIONAL PLAY For-fun leagues, too, have felt the hurt of the pandemic. Austin Perron, an organizer with the Capital City Ball Hockey League, said “not only are we all missing the spirit of the game, but this ‘pause’ has also affected our players’ physical health,” and “for many” their mental health as well. “With all that being said, our biggest fear is that players will not want to come back for health and safety reasons,” said Perron, who promised that return to play will be handled delicately, when it comes time.

SOCCER’S RETURN For some sports organizations,

that moment is now. But it presents a new set of challenges. Mirroring the reopening process that have become commonplace across jurisdictions, Canada’s most popular youth sport will also return in a tiered way. Some Eastern Ontario clubs are now in Phase 1, the modified training period of the three-phase return. Players can train in groups while respecting social distancing. Games aren’t allowed yet. “It’s going to be a challenge for the players and for the coaches because they’re dying to get back out and play games,” said Paul Harris, the head coach at Ottawa South United (OSU). Phase 2, which OSU and other clubs will be allowed into at Ontario Soccer’s discretion, allows for the introduction of small inter-club games (up to 7 versus 7). Even exhibition play has to wait until Phase 3, which Ottawa clubs may not be permitted to enter until at least partway into July. Harris said that because clubs in the province will be advancing through phases at different paces that it has been difficult for clubs to plan for the summer ahead.

UNIVERSITIES Canada’s top post-secondary level of competition is largely taking a different approach – one of extreme caution. On June 8, three of the four U Sports conferences – the AUS, OUA and Canada West – announced that fall sports would not be played this year. “Even though we kind of felt (the fall cancellation) might happen it was a rough day when it came out officially,” said Sue Hylland, the director of sports services at the University of Ottawa. However, when Hylland spoke to the Sportspage in mid-June, only 13 of uOttawa’s 32 sports teams had had their season formally called off, because some of their teams play in RSEQ or other leagues, rather than the OUA. Gee-Gees women’s rugby, women’s hockey, women’s volleyball and swimming teams, at the time of publication, still had the promise of play ahead of them. Hylland told the Sportspage in June that uOttawa was in the midst of planning how sports will safely return to campus as well. “The campus is going to start to re-open at one point and we want to be there in line amongst a bunch of people to try to communicate that we would like the athletes back on campus, the teams to be back,” Hylland said. “And maybe we can show how it can be done.” With files from Dan Plouffe and David Agbaire


About the

The CAMPS Project vision

The Connecting Athletes of All Means to Paths in Sport Project is an initiative that provides free sports opportunities to children/youth from Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhoods. Featured within this unique guide are the sports organizations that offer the free summer camps or seasonal programs positions in exchange for advertising in the Ottawa Sportspage and on OttawaSportsCAMPS.ca. The CAMPS Project is run in collaboration with the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation’s recLINK program, which employs sport and recreation as a tool to offer low-income Ottawa Community Sport Media Team

kids a brighter future. Worthy participants are identified by recLINK’s family coordinators, who work in OCH communities to actively engage children and youth.

They work to overcome barriers to sports participation such as finances, language, knowledge of sports systems and supporting organizations, parental capacity, transporta-

The CAMPS Project functions under the guidance of the incorporated not-for-profit Ottawa Community Sport Media Team, which also operates the Ottawa Sportspage. Our goal is to help build community sport.

tion and social isolation. The CAMPS Project would not be possible without the efforts of many, including Canadian Tire Jumpstart, the Ottawa Sport Council Foundation, and our partner clubs. The organizations featured in this guide not only provide exceptional sports experiences, developmental opportunities and loads of fun, they are also committed to giving back to their communities. Each of these CAMPS Project partners have offered free program positions to OCH children or youth. We thank them for their collaboration and encourage you to support these groups in turn!

recLINK/OCH Foundation

Sports offer not only health benefits from physical activity, but also help teach resiliency, discipline, confidence and self-esteem, and create a sense of belonging. Our program connects children and youth to free sports opportunities with our partner organizations, primarily community sport clubs, who are leaders in athlete and character development, and community building. This setting engages the youth in positive activities, exposes them to role models, and aids in integration to Canadian society for new Canadians. It combats isolation within their own community and allows them to discover available opportunities. For talented athletes, the program can open the door to university athletic scholarship opportunities and sports careers, and for all, it teaches an active lifestyle and fosters an interest to be part of next generation of sport volunteers, coaches and mentors in our community. The program links cross-sections of our community that otherwise may not interact frequently, allows participants from diverse backgrounds learn from one another, and helps build stronger communities.

OCH Foundation goes beyond the bricks and mortar to help each of its 32,000 tenants achieve personal success through education, employ-

ment, and community engagement. The OCH Foundation’s recLINK initiative helps children and youth participate in sport and recreation.

JOIN THE CAMPS PROJECT MOVEMENT! Contact execdir@sportsottawa.com to get your organization involved today.

OTTAWA NEW EDINBURGH CLUB | ONEC.CA/DAY-CAMPS | 613-746-8540 CAMP DATES: July 6 - August 28, 2020 AGES: 7-17 LOCATION: 501/504 Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway

THE OTTAWA NEW EDINBURGH CLUB Ottawa’s Waterfront Sports Centre


The Ottawa New Edinburgh Club’s Unique Single & MultiSport Summer Day Camps! If you want to give your children (or grandchildren) a great summer day camp experience, check out the Ottawa New Edinburgh Club (ONEC), where they will discover new skills, new friends… and lots of fun adventures! ONEC has operated summer day camps from its scenic location on the Ottawa River since the mid 1980s and normally offers tennis, sailing, rowing, big canoeing and stand up paddleboarding (SUP), all taught by certified instructors. This summer, campers can select a single sport or a combination of two sports. Operating weekdays from July 6 to August 28, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, ONEC’s Summer Day Camps offer half- or full-day attendance for one to four weeks. Pre- and post-camp supervision is available from 8:00 am and up until 5:00 pm. It doesn’t matter if participants are trying a sport for the first time or if they have previous experience. On the first day, their abilities are assessed, and campers are then divided into groups that match their skills, while also ensuring that COVID-19 protocols are followed.


TENNIS One and Two Week Sessions; Full and Half Day for Ages 7 to 17; Certified Instructors; Extended Drop-off and Pick-up Times Full Details and Online Registration at www.onec.ca/day-camps or phone 613.746.8540

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ONEC’s Tennis Camps (for ages 7 to 17 years) are a great way to get kids interested in tennis or build on the skills they already possess. Participants learn stroke basics, game strategy, footwork and sportsmanship. Fun structured off-court activities are also organized, and all campers receive an ONEC Summer Day Camp t-shirt.


ONEC Day Camps Ad / July 2020 Ottawa Sportspage / Image size 5.1875”w x 6.125”h / 4C / Cynthia Hamady at cyn.hamady@gmail.com for ad production inquiries

Sailing (for ages 9 to 17 years) is one of ONEC’s

most popular programs. Campers are introduced to its many different elements, including seamanship and safety. ONEC’s Sailing Camp uses the CANSail progressive certification from levels 1 to 4. CANSail 1 may take a week or more; CANSail 2 takes two to three weeks; CANSail 3 and 4 each take four to six weeks. All participants must sign up for full-day sailing camps.


Our popular rowing, canoeing and stand up paddleboarding programs will resume in 2021.


ONEC has implemented strategies and protocols to protect against COVID-19 transmission, to keep our campers and their families safe. For more details go to our website, www.onec.ca.


ONEC Summer Day Camps offer great value and are HST-exempt as well. For further information, check out www.onec.ca and register online at www.onec.ca/day-camps or call 613.746.8540.






COST: $289/week & tax (4-day weeks: $237) Golf, Archery, Soccer, Basketball, Water (Lunch and Pre/Post Care Included) LOCATION: Thunderbird: 1927 Richardson Side Rd. Amberwood: 54 Springbrook Dr. WEB SITES:

thunderbirdsportscentre.com amberwood.ca



Weeks of July 27-31 & Aug. 10-14.




$150/week (8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)

Games & Much More FUN!


Swimming, Tennis, Archery, Basketball & Much More FUN!

Lunch & Pre/Post Camp Care Included at Both Sites!

amberwood.ca Register through our websites, or call us at



Train with UEFA-licensed coaches, former professional/university players, and our popular and talented academy coaches.

Open Camps Players age U9-U13 Weeks of July 27-31 & August 10-14


Millennium Park & Gloucester HS PHONE: 613-573-7627

WEB SITE: OttawaTFC.com/COVID-SeasonProgramming#U9-U13%20Camps

Unity | Growth | Work Ethic | Excellence


OTTAWA SUMMER SPORTS CAMPS GUIDE OTTAWA CITY SOCCER CAMP DATES: Weekly from July 13 through Aug. 21 Recreational, High Performance, Multi-Sport and Goalkeeper/Striker Camps Available (See web site for full schedule details)

AGES: 5-18 LOCATION: Trend-Arlington Park


$105-$130/week (half days)

WEB SITE: OttawaCitySoccer.com

OTTAWA LIONS TRACK & FIELD CLUB CAMP DATES: Weekly from July 6 through August 21


PHONE: 613-247-4886

The Ottawa Lions T&F Club’s SUMMER CAMP PROGRAM provides an introduction to track and field, and develops all-round athleticism & fitness through speed, strength, endurance & agility training. Find out more at:

E-MAIL: info@ottawalions.com


AGES: 6-12 COST: $170/week ( /2 Days), $310/2 wks 1

LOCATION: Terry Fox Athletic Facility


Weekly June 29 through July 24

AGES: 5-14


First Kicks/Developmental Camps: $235/week


Larkin Park, Barrhaven George Nelms Sports Park, Manotick



To all our 2020 CAMPS Project partners:


Become a CAMPS Project partner today! 613-261-5838 • execdir@sportsottawa.com The organizations below have generously provided free registrations for local kids from low-income families. See OttawaSportsCAMPS.ca for more details on each of them.





























































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uOttawa Gee-Gees buy local with their new women’s hockey and football coaching hires By Dan Plouffe The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees hired Ottawa natives Chelsea Grills and Marcel Bellefeuille to lead their women’s hockey and football programs in May, thus completing their full palate of varsity team head coaches from the capital. With the additions, the head coach of every Gee-Gee varsity team either hails from the area or has been here for over 30 years. “It’s really nice,” uOttawa athletic director Sue Hylland says. “We’ve got people with really strong Ottawa roots running our programs, and very, very good people, first and foremost.” Having coaches from the capital aids in recruiting as well as rallying community support and involvement, Hylland notes, though having a full cast with deep Ottawa roots wasn’t by design. “It happens to be by coincidence that we have it. It’s not the be-all and end-all,” signals Hylland, whose teams also recently added Ottawa Maverick volleyball product Kaly Soro and St. Peter Knights/Ottawa Irish rugby coach Pat Thompson as assistant coaches. “Could others come in and do it? Yes, absolutely. You know, if you’ve got a really good person, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. But I think having roots here and connections here, it helps certainly.” Considering they could certainly find work elsewhere, it was a coup of sorts for the Gee-Gees to draw their two recent head coach selections back to their hometowns. A 2000 Vanier Cup champion with uOttawa early in his coaching career,

Chelsea Grills

Bellefeuille went on to coach extensively in the Canadian Football League with Saskatchewan, Montreal, Hamilton, Winnipeg and B.C., and also spent time in the U.S. with Omaha of the United Football League and the Texas Spring League. “‘Coach B’ brings some great experience from his last 20 years with different teams,” highlights Hylland. “He’s a great leader, he’s a great communicator, and I think he has that ability to really bring people together.” Likewise, Grills has worked on both sides of the border. As an assistant coach, the Stittsville native won a national title with McGill in 2014 and an NCAA Div. 3 crown with Amherst College in 2010. Grills also coached at the University of Vermont and the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Rockland before joining the Gee-Gees as a full-time assistant in 2017. The former St. Lawrence Saints captain took over as interim head coach mid-season following the departure of Montreal-bred Yanick Evola, and posted a program-record winning streak shortly thereafter. Hylland says it was a nice bonus to be able to hire a woman as a head coach in a field that remains dominated by men. “I think it’s wonderful,” states the past Canada Games Council CEO, underlining that the long-serving GeeGees male coaches have done exceptional work too. “With Chelsea, here’s a strong female role model from the area who’s competed at a high level, has coached at a high level, and has won at a high level. It’s nice to create that understanding that other young women can strive for that same goal in the future.”


photo: greg mason

The strike of COVID-19 knocked uOttawa athletics of course – take the men’s hockey team’s nationals getting cancelled on the eve of the tournament as a prime example – but it ultimately enabled them to land the Gee-

Marcel Bellefeuille became the youngest coach to win the Vanier Cup in 2000.

Gees football hall-of-famer. Bellefeuille had been in the midst of pre-season preparations with the Montreal Alouettes when the CFL season was suddenly postponed. “If I’d been coaching with the Als, I wouldn’t have even looked at Ottawa U, I wouldn’t have been able to,” recounts Bellefeuille. “So COVID actually provided the opportunity, and such a good opportunity, to come home and be with my family, and come back to my first love where I played, where I coached, where I went to school, where we won a Vanier. It’s pretty fun to come back.” For a fair chunk of the time Bellefeuille coached in the pros, his wife and four children stayed put at their home in Orleans. “Family is very important to me,” underlines the 54-year-old. “It’s been 20 years I’ve been pro football, and our family spent a lot of time apart.” After rising to the top in just 3 years during his first run as Gee-Gees head coach, Bellefeuille is now eager to take on the challenge of creating a sustainable university program – tasks that go beyond coaching and play-calling. “Now I have an opportunity to come back and lay the foundation for a longer period of time,” explains Bellefeuille, noting only uOttawa could draw him back to the university ranks from the pros. “It’s funny. Since I left, both of my daughters graduated from Ottawa U, and my sons may go too.” Sharing “values to live your life on” with younger players during “a very important piece of their life” was another appeal of coaching university football.

“I enjoy setting a path and being able to influence the lives of young men, and hopefully being able to teach them and be an example to them,” Bellefeuille signals. “Some of the most satisfying moments I’ve had aren’t things that I’ve been able to do on the field.” With the 2020 Ontario university football season shelved due to COVID, there’s a bit of extra time to implement initiatives to increase the Gee-Gees’ social impact in the community – work that Bellefeuille holds close to his heart. “I only went to university

photo: gee-gees.ca and had the drive to go there because I wanted to play college football,” recounts the Ridgemont High School grad who grew up in the Hetherington Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhood. “Sports can be a huge piece (for youth from challenging backgrounds). It gives kids an opportunity to see a way out.”

GRILLS GUNG HO TO GROW GEE-GEES’ GRASSROOTS LINKS Community connections are a focal point for the Gee-Gees women’s hockey program too, echoes Grills,

who wants to build on the momentum of their Future Stars program and further enhance relationships with local teams. “We place a lot of importance on giving back to the community and providing opportunities for young players to see women’s hockey at the university level,” Grills says by e-mail. The 35-year-old has observed “amazing” progress in grassroots women’s hockey since her days growing up playing boys’ hockey. As a high schooler, Grills joined the Ottawa Raiders of the National Women’s Hockey League and remains close to several teammates from that time. “Of course being close to family and friends played a huge part in coming back to Ottawa,” indicates Grills, stating that the Gee-Gees’ values and expectations for sports and school align with hers. “I’m very excited for this opportunity. One of our goals is to be perennial national contenders and that is what we work towards every day.”



Vincent De Haître’s dual-sport dreams hit a speed bump with postponed Tokyo Olympics By Brendan Shykora Vincent De Haître was getting dressed for a bike ride on the morning of March 22 when he got a phone call explaining that he may have reached a fork in the road of achieving two of his longtime athletic goals. The Cumberland native’s Cycling Canada coach was on the other end of the line in the U.K., where he was stuck. Because of the fast-escalating fallout following the novel coronavirus, he struggling to find a flight back to Canada. He had more bad news for De Haître: Canada had withdrawn from Tokyo 2020. Two days later, the upcoming Olympic Games were postponed until 2021. The global pandemic forced the entire sporting world into hibernation, sending athletes aloof from their typical role as distractors, while much of the world hunkered down at home. For De Haïtre – a 26-year-old dual-sport athlete whose personal plans included appearing in both the 2020 Summer Games as a track cyclist and the 2022 Winter Games as a speedskater – the postpone-

Vincent De Haître

file photos

ment of the Tokyo Games makes for a dilemma. There was a lot to think about, but De Haître decided to keep his dual-sport Olympic goals intact. Competing in two Olympic sports less than seven months apart risks spreading himself too thin, but De Haître and his coaches have drawn up a plan to keep his body in shape for both the oval and the ice. Fortunately, the physical demands of cycling and skating are similar, and training for the latter already involves a fair amount of time on the bike.

“Right now, I’m on 90 per cent of my speedskating program and then whenever I’m on the bike I kind of ride as if I was still a cyclist, which means slightly different training zones and different technical focuses,” De Haître told the Sportspage in early June. Now in Calgary with the skating team, De Haître is training on his own most of the time, although peeled back pandemic protocols are starting to allow for more group sessions. “We still have to stay apart from each other and we can’t share

equipment, but at least now we’re getting some visual feedback from the coaches,” said the 3-time Ottawa Sports Awards male athlete of the year.

TIGHT TURNAROUND FROM TOKYO ’21 TO BEIJING ’22 De Haître has already proven he can push boundaries on the bike. At February’s Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin, he set a Canadian record for the 1 km time trial at sea level, placing 4th in the world. The 1 km time trial event is not contested at the Olympics.

The Ottawa Bicycle Club product was also an alternate for the Canadian team pursuit squad (featuring fellow Ottawa native Derek Gee) that placed 12th but comfortably clinched one of the eight available Olympic berths. With two Winter Olympics under his belt by age 23, De Haître has proved to be one of the world’s best in speedskating too. In 2017, the Gloucester Concordes athlete was a World Championships silver medallist and ranked #2 overall for the men’s 1,000 m on the World Cup circuit. Competing in both Tokyo 2021 and Beijing 2022 would put De Haître in rare company. In 1968 – back when Winter and Summer Games were each held in the same year – Canadian athlete Robert Boucher competed in cycling and speedskating 238 days apart. De Haître could break that benchmark with just 181 days of separation between Games. “It’s something that drives me,” De Haître underlines. Visit SportsOttawa.com for a recap of the Track Cycling World Championships.

Olympic champ Wiebe inspires young volunteers who watched her win Tokyo berth in town she is, how much of a competitor she is, but also, she’s grown a lot as a person,” signals Wiebe’s coach at the University of Calgary, Paul Ragusa. “She’s a very smart person, she’s very in tune to what’s going on, and the way she reflects on her competitions and herself is very different now and deeper than it was years ago. She’s not the same athlete she was in 2016. She’s developed and grown considerably as an athlete and as a person.”

By Dan Plouffe It was a special moment – Ottawa’s Olympic hero claiming a return trip to the Games in her hometown – rendered all the more unique for the few who got to witness it live. Ultimately, with COVID-19 forcing organizers to close the competition to the public, it was a small segment of the local wrestling community that was present for Erica Wiebe’s victory at the Pan-American Olympic Qualification Tournament on Mar. 14 at the Shaw Centre, but, true to form, the radiant grappler from Stittsville managed to inspire numerous young athletes just the same. “For a lot of our wrestlers, she’s their favorite athlete,” underlines National Capital Wrestling Club head coach Chris Schwauren, once upon a time a teammate of Wiebe’s as a teenager. “Of course it was frustrating to have no spectators, but certainly a lot of our kids were even more keen to be on that volunteer list to get them in the doors.” Helping out at the event was a bit of a dream opportunity for Grade 6 student Ella Cleary, whose mother Victoria has been an athletic therapist with the Canadian wrestling team since 2001. Cleary was 3 years old when her mom first started showing her pictures, people and prizes from competitions all over the world, but this was the first time the Petawawa resident got to see it live. Having tried wrestling this past spring with the Renfrew club that also operates in Pembroke, Cleary was tickled to get the chance


photo: steve kingsman

Erica Wiebe had expected she may have to handle crowd noise and the emotions from her hometown fans cheering her on, but in the end, the only thing she heard on the mat aside from her coach’s directions loud and clear was the click of photographers’ camera shutters. “I like to think that I’ve been through it all, so it was actually really fun to have a new challenge to work with and to manage,” Wiebe says of the impact COVID-19 had on the Pan-American Olympic Wrestling Qualification Tournament. to walk out beside Wiebe and carry the Rio how I can make myself and my family proud in 50 years,” explains Calgary-based Wiebe, 2016 champ’s basket of warm-up clothes. “She always said thank you to the people who is Alberta’s first-ever ambassador for who carried her stuff,” notes Cleary. “Some sport and active living, and an advocate for KidSport Canada, Fast & Female, and other athletes didn’t, they just kind of ignored us.” “She’s so nice,” echoes Miriam Visser, a organizations. “It’s a big responsibility that I Grade 9 Merivale High School wrestler and take very seriously.” new NCWC member. “When she’s walking in, ‘CONSIDERABLE GROWTH she’s all serious and like smacking her face AS AN ATHLETE AND A PERSON’ and everything, but then when she walks out, she’ll thank you for giving her her stuff, and Returning to the Olympics hasn’t been she’s just so kind.” a piece of cake for the 30-year-old Sacred Wiebe says it can sometimes be difficult Heart Catholic High School grad. The road into be viewed as a role model, but she nonethe- cluded an abundance of injuries and personal less accepts and embraces the opportunity. challenges in 2019 in particular. “I really just try to be myself, and think of “For me, it just reinforced how resilient

Getting to see Wiebe compete in Ottawa – for the first time since her high school days – at a major international event was a treasured opportunity to fuel the fire for young aspiring athletes, indicates Schwauren. “Certainly it just kind of makes it real, right?” he highlights, noting they can often watch streams of matches in faraway places, but this time it was in Ottawa, with big mats, lighting, the United World Wrestling logo, “and then to see someone we know who comes back and trains with us competing against some of the best in the world – that’s pretty cool.” “It was the neatest opportunity ever,” concurs Visser. “To see them live and to see how they prepare, it was really beautiful.” “For her to qualify here in Ottawa, and then hopefully do well at the Olympics again, it was super exciting to be a part of,” Schwauren adds. “Hopefully we do more big events like this.” READ MORE!: visit SportsOttawa.com for full recap on Wiebe’s Olympic qualifier.



Ottawa fencer set to make Olympic debut at age 33 vows to push on for Tokyo 2021 By Dan Plouffe Kelleigh Ryan’s journey to the Olympic Games is a tale of dogged determination and full-on devotion to a sport that dominates all aspects of her life. The 33-year-old Ottawa native was never that can’t-miss prospect or her team’s star attraction. But ever since Kelleigh “The Rock” Ryan first earned her place on the Canadian women’s fencing team in 2008, she’s been there at every single championship competition for Canada – a run of 12 straight years. Performance, then politics, kept her out of the last two Olympics, and then along came COVID-19 to throw in another plot twist – forcing her to flee from her home training base in New York City, and postponing the long-awaited culmination of her career at the Tokyo Games. Ryan found love through fencing, she’s been to roughly 20 countries because of it, and she’s experienced huge highs and terrible lows that made her hate the sport she fell in love with as a teenager in Ottawa. But what’s never wavered is her lifelong commitment to the slow and subtle art of learning and improving in one of the world’s most technical

Kelleigh Ryan

photo: marie-lan nguyen / wikimedia commons

photo: steve kingsman

and tactical sports. “I say it all the time: hard work always wins out over natural talent,” says Ottawa’s Paul ApSimon, the Canadian women’s foil national team coach. When ApSimon first started working with Ryan at the RA Centre when she was 16, he saw a fully

“physically-literate” athlete, but the signs weren’t entirely evident that the former Ottawa Internationals soccer player would one day become a consistent international competitor, and an Olympic podium contender. Ryan was a solid fencer domestically in her age group, but she never made the junior national team.

“Some athletes just skyrocket to the top, but Kelleigh just kept on working,” ApSimon highlights. “She’s so, so stubborn. She’s just going to work at something until she gets what she wants.” Ryan’s parents encouraged her to try a new sport each season, which is how she landed in fencing

as a 10-year-old. “I always wanted to represent Canada,” signals the Glebe Collegiate Institute grad whose best-ever world ranking as a junior was 83rd. “It didn’t happen right away, and that was hard for me. I really wanted to make the national team, and I failed a number of times.” Slowly but surely, Ryan became a consistent performer for the Canadian women’s foil team. The Carleton University grad is now the team’s most senior member. Ryan had to shake her head and smile when news of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics postponement came. “The Rock” had waited so long to get to the Olympics, and she’d expected her first Games would also be her last, with plans to retire shortly after Tokyo. “It’s just funny. It’s like, ‘OK, fencing just really doesn’t want me to quit!’” laughs Ryan, who pledges that she will always remain involved in the sport even after her athletic career is complete. “It’s changed my plans, but I’m confident that I can stay healthy and motivated one more year.” Visit SportsOttawa.com for an in-depth feature on Ryan’s journey to the Olympics.

Golfer Grace St-Germain ventures into coaching after impressive NCAA collegiate career By Stuart Miller-Davis The end of Ottawa native Grace St-Germain’s collegiate golf career with Arkansas University was cut short by COVID-19, but she’s excited to begin her journey into coaching. St-Germain, 21, is now shadowing PGA golf professional Derek MacDonald at The Marshes Golf Club in Kanata to learn about teaching the game. The two met during St-Germain’s time with Team Canada and when she reached out to MacDonald expressing interest in coaching, he jumped at the idea to have her join him at The Marshes. “Originally, she reached out to me saying ¬– hey, would I help her to understand the golf swing better and be able to teach it,” he said. “I took it as an opportunity… I’d love to have her on my team and be able to build her and get her to grow as a PGA member and instructor.’” St-Germain was exuberant to learn about the industry from her former

Grace St-Germain

photo: steve kingsman coach. “As of right now, I’ve learned a lot of the day-today things like watching him in the pro shop and I’m going to be observing some lessons coming up,” St-Germain said. MacDonald is looking forward to showing St-Germain the ins and outs of being a golf professional. “She’s so calm and got such a great personality for this,” he said. “Obviously she’s always going to be a great player but now she’s moving into that coaching role.” St-Germain was introduced to golf by way of her grandparents. They ran the

junior golf program at the Highlands Golf Club for a few summers. “They brought me out to the club one day and I decided I really liked it,” St-Germain said. She went on to have an impressive junior career with stops on the Golf Canada National Development team and national team while splitting her collegiate career between Daytona State and Arkansas. During her junior career she won 1st place in the Quebec Women’s Provincials and a Canadian Junior Girls championship in 2014, along with a 1st place finish at the Ontario Women’s Amateur in 2016. In Florida with Daytona State, St-Germain continued to shine. She tied for 3rd at the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) Championships in 2017 – helping her team win a group title –and then tied for 1st place in 2018 as Daytona State claimed another team championship. After moving up to play in the NCAA with Arkansas,

she played in six events in two seasons on a team that was routinely highly ranked and received its share of national attention. “I think my entire college career feels like a special moment or highlight really,” St-Germain said in reflection. “One of my favourite tournaments was the Annika Intercollegiate in Minnesota. It was a lot of fun and had a lot of great teams.” It was at the Annika this past season where St-Germain reached her personal

best finish at the NCAA level by placing in 11th. After being away from home due to the travel demands of her golf career and subsequently because of the COVID-19 pandemic as well, St-Germain is looking forward to re-rooting herself in Ottawa. “Right now, I have my head set on coaching in the future,” St-Germain said. “I had such a great time in golf that the coaching side really appeals to me with mentoring kids through the tournament

world. My plan so far is to go in to coaching further down the road.” There’s no doubt in MacDonald’s mind as to what St-Germain has accomplished on the course and he’s confident in her future helping others to the same success. “She’s done it all playing golf,” he said. “She’s going to continue to play competitively I’m sure, but now she’s got a little different route to take. I think she’s going to be an outstanding instructor and teacher.”


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Ottawa Blackjacks betting big on local talent Johnny Berhanemeskel

Philip Scrubb

Thomas Scrubb

The Rebelles Wrap • La Rubrique Rebelle

Louis-Riel Pre-Academy lifting more basketball players to next level The Louis-Riel Girls’ Basketball Academy has established itself as a hotbed for varsity recruiters, and now it’s the program’s Pre-Academy that is catching fire too. In 2016, Louis-Riel high school became a founding member of the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association – a league renowned for its optimal player development philosophies and for breeding piles of university/college student-athletes. This past year, Louis-Riel kicked off a Pre-Academy for girls in Grade 7 and 8 within the school’s Exploratory Sports program. “It’s been really great,” says Academy Head Coach André Desjardins, explaining that some girls may have shied away from giving basketball a try in the past if they weren’t as talented or experienced. The Pre-Academy now ensures that the door is wide open to athletes with potential who haven’t played much organized basketball, and particularly to tall players who might need more repetitions and physical conditioning, he adds. With assistance from high school players, PreAcademy training takes place 3 days a week during students’ year-round physical education classes. “Not all Pre-Academy girls will become Academy

girls, but we want to give them their best shot to develop their potential,” notes Desjardins, also a coach for Team Ontario and Team Canada outside of school. “It’s a good way for them to play against faster people and have role models in the older girls, and to see what they need to do.” There was a surge in basketball interest when the Pre-Academy tipped off this school year, and many more signed up for next year, including numerous club basketball players looking to supplement their training. “The goal is just to build some future leaders who will get a chance to keep playing the game that they love at a post-secondary institution,” Desjardins says. The Academy has produced a pile of varsity talent already. In fact, the program has a perfect record – each graduate has gone on to play university or college basketball since it began. The class of 2020 includes: future McGill University Martlet Emma-Jane Scotten (who will study early childhood education), Lootii Kiri (University of Toronto Varsity Blues, math & science), and a pair of incoming University of Ottawa Gee-Gees – Raissa Nsabua (software engineering) and Naziah Charles (communications). “I’m just so happy because that’s what the girls were striving for,” Desjardins signals. “And it shows the younger girls that there is something after high school ball if I put the work in.”

La Pré-académie Louis-Riel élève d’autres joueuses de basketball

L’Académie de basketball féminin Louis-Riel est devenue un foyer fertile pour les recruteurs de sports universitaires, et maintenant c’est le programme de Préacadémie qui prend son envol aussi. En 2016, l’École secondaire publique Louis-Riel s’est joint au nouveau Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association – une ligue bien reconnue pour ses philosophies envers le développement optimal des joueurs, et qui produit un nombre important d’élèves-athlètes universitaires / collégiales. Cette année scolaire, Louis-Riel a démarré une Pré-académie pour les filles de la 7e et 8e année au sein de son programme Sports-Exploratoires. « Ça s’est vraiment bien déroulé », indique l’entraîneur-chef de l’Académie, André Desjardins, en expliquant que quelques filles n’avaient peut-être pas essayer le basketball auparavant de peur qu’elles n’aient pas assez de talent naturel ou d’expérience préalable. La Pré-académie assure que la porte soit complètement ouverte aux athlètes qui ont du potentiel mais qui n’ont pas jouées de basket organisé, et surtout pour les filles qui sont grandes ayant besoin de plus de répétitions et de l’entraînement physique, rajoute M. Desjardins. Parmi les classes d’éducation physique quotidiennes, il y a des sessions de Pré-académie trois fois par semaine. Les joueuses de l’Académie offrent leur aide. « Ça ne sera pas toutes les filles

de la Pré-Académie qui deviendront des joueuses de l’Académie, mais nous voulons que chaque fille puisse avoir la meilleure chance de maximiser son développement », remarque M. Desjardins, un entraîneur pour l’Équipe de l’Ontario et du Canada en dehors de l’école. « C’est une bonne opportunité de se tester face à des joueuses plus rapides, et d’avoir des modèles à suivre grâce aux filles plus âgées, et de voir le travail qu’elles ont besoin de faire ». L’intérêt pour le basket a connu une hausse avec l’introduction de la Pré-académie cette année scolaire, et plus d’élèves encore se sont inscrites pour l’année prochaine, y inclus plusieurs joueuses de clubs communautaires qui désirent approfondir leur entraînement. « Le but c’est vraiment de produire une nouvelle génération de leaders qui auront la chance de continuer à jouer le sport qu’elles adorent au niveau post-secondaire », conclut M. Desjardins.

L’Académie a déjà produit beaucoup de talents universitaires. En fait, le programme possède un record parfait – depuis son début, chaque diplômée a continué à jouer au basketball au niveau universitaire ou collégial. La promotion de 2020 comporte : Emma-Jane Scotten (Martlets de l’Université McGill, Éducation de la petite enfance), Lootii Kiri (Varsity Blues de l’Université de Toronto, Sciences et mathématiques), et deux Gee-Gees de l’Université d’Ottawa – Raissa Nsabua (Génie en logiciel) et Naziah Charles (Communications). « Je suis tellement content parce que c’était vraiment l’objectif qu’elles aspiraient atteindre », souligne M. Desjardins. « Et ça montre aux filles plus jeunes qu’il y a quelque chose pour eux après le basket du secondaire si elles se poussent et travaillent forts ».


file photos

By Charlie Pinkerton In an attempt to course-correct the short history of professional basketball in the nation’s capital, the Ottawa Blackjacks are wagering their success on the riches of hoops talent bred in the nation’s capital. The start to the new franchise’s locally-focused plan was winning the faith of the most significant basketball figure in the city’s history. However, with Dave Smart coming off an unprecedented run of success at the university level, he wasn’t just going to leap at any next opportunity – the ball had to be in his court. Describing it simply, the longtime Carleton Ravens coach said he was drawn by the made-in-Canada mandate of the Canada Elite Basketball League’s (CEBL), which the Blackjacks were accepted into as the seventh team and first expansion franchise in the fall. “I want to support Canadian basketball if I’m doing it in Canada,” Smart told the Sportspage in an interview in late March. Smart was in the midst of his first year of stepping back from coaching Carleton’s men’s team when he signed on to become the general manager (GM) of the Blackjacks. He was coming off a stretch of winning 13 national championships in his last 16 years of coaching the Ravens. The CEBL’s inaugural season was played last summer and Smart says he liked what he saw. He was drawn into discussions with Blackjacks interim president Mike Cvitkovic after being propositioned by others in the league to become involved. While Smart wouldn’t dis-

close many of the specifics of what Cvitkovic’s vision was that drew him in, he said that as well as the promotion of Canadian athletes, he also liked the president’s longterm plan for the team. He likened it to Carleton’s approach: prioritizing sustainability and resisting going for a “big bang” right off the bat. “I think he’s got a vision that is a step-by-step,” Smart said. The pitch that won Smart over presents a much different game plan than what the Ottawa SkyHawks of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL) unsuccessfully employed before the Blackjacks, in the SkyHawks attempt to implant a pro hoops franchise in the city. The American-player-led SkyHawks flamed out after one forgettable season in the NBL in 2013-14. By design the CEBL ensures teams have more Canadian representation, with a requirement that 70 per cent of each team’s players are born in this country. The NBL launched only requiring three players from each team to be Canadian. Smart’s appointment as the driver of personnel decisions of the Blackjacks set the team in the direction of becoming a microcosm of the recent rich history of Ottawa basketball. The next step in that journey was finding a right fit at head coach – someone the new GM felt confident he could work and win with. That person was found in Smart-disciple Osvaldo Jeanty, who was a part of more than half of his former coach’s record-number of university titles. Jeanty grew up in Ottawa after moving from Haiti

to Canada’s capital with his family when he was six years old. He originally picked up basketball playing in local parks just before his teen years, before going on to bring Samuel-Genest, a small French-language school located between Vanier and Gloucester, a city championship in his final year as a high-schooler. Jeanty and Smart first got to know each other when the eventual coaching pupil was around 15 years old and a member of the Ottawa Guardsmen, the local club that served as Carleton’s breeding ground for many years. Jeanty would go on to win five consecutive titles as the Ravens point guard, collecting an overflowing bin’sworth of individual accolades along the way. He later returned to the Ravens in 2016 after playing professionally for six seasons and coaching multiple local teams in the Ottawa area. With Jeanty on board, the Ravens won the 2017 and 2019 U Sports championships. Like Smart, the former point guard left Carleton’s coaching staff after last year. As well as being a financial planner full-time, Jeanty also has two young children. The decision to step away from basketball was made so he could help his wife raise their family. It was in December when Smart raised the prospect of coaching the Blackjacks to Jeanty. The discussions became more serious in January, at which point Jeanty said he reached out to his manager at RBC to be able to see if he could make it work, as well as clearing things with “the boss at home.”

BJACKS cont’s p.17


OTTAWA SPORTSPAGE SNAPSHOTS LOCAL SKIERS NAMED TO NATIONAL TEAMS Ottawa cross-country skier Pierre Grall-Johnson was one of eight athletes named to the 2020-21 Senior Development Team by Nordiq Canada. The senior team, along with the eight members of the Junior Development Team, make up Canada’s national team, which will be striving for contention toward the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Grall-Johnson, who skis with Nakkertok Nordic, captured the bronze medal at the Nor-Am Cup this January. Luke Allan, another member of the Nakkertok team, was named to Canada’s prospects team, which aims to develop skiers who are too young for the national team.

Unsung Hometown Heroes

FORMER TOP RUGBY PLAYER ENTERS ELITE REFEREE TRAINING Former full-back for Team Canada, Julianne Zussman, will be entering World Rugby’s Virtual High Performance Academy to receive training for international referees. Zussman, who was born in Ottawa, represented Canada in three world cups and is currently a referee. She has refereed in three international tournaments so far and was the first Canadian test player to referee at the international level.

Celebrating the Special People who Drive our Sports Community


After taking a break from skiing in January to cope with the mental toll of racing, Dustin Cook announced in March that he would be retiring after a race in Kvitfjell, Norway (which ended up being cancelled due to bad weather). Cook, whose home mountain is Mont Ste-Marie, named 2015 as the best season of his career. During that season, he became the first Canadian to win a super-G world championship medal after winning silver at the World Alpine Ski Championships. He also won third at the Kvitfjell World Cup and gold at the Meribel, France World Cup Finals. At the PyeongChang Olympics, he placed 9th in the super-G, making him the highest finishing Canadian male alpine skier at the Games. For more about Cook and his retirement, read the full story at SportsOttawa.com.

OTTAWA TO HOST 2021 MEN’S WORLD CURLING CHAMPIONSHIP The 2021 Men’s World Curling Championship will take place at TD Place April 3 to 11, 2021. This is the first time the event has been held in Ottawa. The two championships leading up to the 2022 Beijing Games would have determined which teams qualified for the Olympics, but this year’s championship in Glasgow was cancelled due to COVID-19. Instead, only the 2021 championships will determine qualifiers, with the top six teams at the Ottawa event automatically earning a spot.


Sportstats, a Nepean-based sports timing and results company, has created a physical distancing 5K race. Runners are mailed their bib after registering online. They can then show up at the starting line, which is at Sportstats’ headquarters, at any time between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, until the end of the summer. An antenna connected to a TV screen detects when a runner has stepped up to the starting line, and their time starts as soon as their name appears on the screen. They finish at that same TV screen, where their results are then shown. The 5K loop can be run up to four times, so runners can choose to run a 5, 10, 15, or 20K race. There are no volunteers or staff, and only one runner (or two from the same family) can start at a time. The course goes through an industrial centre and on sidewalks and bike paths.

ONLINE BOXING CLASS FOR PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS Boxing Without Barriers and Little Italy’s Beaver Boxing Club are partnering to offer a virtual boxing class over Google Meet for people for special needs. The class is taking place on June 28 and anyone can RVSP via email to attend. Beaver Boxing Club also announced that they will soon be reopening, although restrictions will be in place such as only having 10 people in the club at a time, and only competitors or members of Ontario Boxing will be allowed. They expect to restart competitive training this month.

CATCH UP Did you miss out on your fix of Ottawa amateur sports news during lockdown? Bring yourself up to speed by visiting our website and reading the entirety of our special e-edition at https://sportsottawa.com/2020/04/17/ottawa-sportspage-e-edition-now-available/.

BJACKS cont’d p.16 “And that’s how it started,” said Jeanty, who the Blackjacks announced on Jan. 24 as the team’s coach for their debut season. His appointment was made publicly just over a week away from when the league’s free agency period was set to begin. The Blackjacks were dependent on free agency to fill their roster, having missed out on the league’s start-up draft the year before. The sway the GM-coach tandem would have in landing who they wanted was one point Smart specifically identified at the announcement of Jeanty’s hiring. “For me, finding someone who has a similar relationship and connection with the players in our organization was very important to me,” Smart said. “Osvaldo’s really close to

all the guys who have played in the Eastern Ontario area and the Montreal area, and it really helps in terms of that.” While Smart did push back against the insinuation that the team’s composition would be purposely Ottawa player-centric (telling the Sportspage, “(We) just want the best team (we) can get.”), the Blackjacks hardly strayed from that mould in building their roster. The signing of ex-Raven and Gee-Gee Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles preempted the additions of many familiar faces. Former Carleton stars Phil and Thomas Scrubb, and Kaza Kajami-Keane were later announced along with former University of Ottawa standout Johnny Berhanemeskel. More recent Ravens grads Yasiin Joseph, Tajinder Lall and Munis Tutu have all signed with the Black-

jacks, as well as current Carleton players Lloyd Pandi and Alain Louis, who were drafted in special development spots. “It’s one of the main reasons why, you know, Dave and I decided to be involved in this, because we wanted to have home-grown talent,” Jeanty said. Having a roster of Ottawa-born and -connected players also allows for a built-in sense of continuity, which typically would be an obstacle for any expansion team. “So you already know that the chemistry or the culture or whatever Os and Dave wants to put in the team – you know it won’t be far-fetched, because everybody’s familiar with the style of play,” Pierre-Charles told the Sportspage. Stacking the Blackjacks roster with guys with Ottawa ties is advantageous for both the viability of the team and

their own personal success, GM, coach and player each agreed. “I think it’s important to connect with your city because you can’t just be a team with a bunch of people that people don’t recognize, especially if you can connect to the city in other ways that other teams maybe can’t,” Pierre-Charles added. The CEBL delayed its second season out of caution to COVID-19, but is trying to salvage its second year with a multi-week tournament that would see all seven of the league’s teams convene in one location. The league said in June it is in discussions with officials in the Niagara region to see if the tournament could be played in St. Catharines in late July and August. Read an extended version of this story online at SportsOttawa.com.

Phyllis Bergmans & army of volunteers hopeful cancelled Canadian Ringette Championships can return to the capital It was only two years ago that the City of Ottawa Ringette Association (CORA) won the bid to host the 2020 Canadian Ringette Championships. Planned for April 5 to 11, 2020 the event was to take place in rinks across the city. Since winning the bid, it’s fair to say that there have been thousands of volunteer hours dedicated to getwith City of Ottawa ting Ottawa prepared for the event. Sports Commissioner On March 13, just as the coronaviMathieu Fleury rus pandemic was spreading quickly, Ringette Canada officially cancelled the event. For the president of CORA, Phyllis Bergmans, she said to call it a disappointment is a vast understatement. And it’s not the volunteer hours, or the cancellation calls to businesses, rinks, City facilities, or any of the services lined up for the event. It is the athletes who were dreaming of competing in the under-16, U-19 and open events who lose out. “We have a lot of athletes across Canada that this was their oncein-a-lifetime chance because they are ageing out, or for whatever the reasons,” highlighted Bergmans. “There are some young teenagers going into adulthood, and they have worked so hard to get here. They worked so hard to achieve this goal, and it is the top level. It is the best in Canada.” Cancellations which followed included hotel rooms, a gala set for 2,000 people and a community pancake breakfast – all things Bergmans said the committee worked hard at organizing and securing to make the most of the 2020 Championships. The next steps remain unclear. Whether CORA will be able to host in 2021 – which is the hope – is up in the air. Bergmans said she has put in a request to Ringette Canada, which would shift the Championships from planned 2021 host Calgary back to Ottawa next year, but she has yet to hear back. “Keep your fingers, toes, everything crossed,” Bergmans said, adding that getting the 2021 event would bump all the Championship locations moving forward, but would give something for Ottawa to look forward to next Spring.


Do you know a local sports figure we should feature in the Unsung Hometown Heroes column? Let us know! Contact:

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Athlete of the Month: Luke Allan

Contacts For News/Editorial: Charlie Pinkerton Editor 613-929-3681 editor@sportsottawa.com For Advertising/CAMPS Project Partnerships: Dan Plouffe Executive Director 613-261-5838 execdir@sportsottawa.com The Ottawa Sportspage is a not-for-profit publication devoted to shining a spotlight on local amateur sport. Under the direction of the Ottawa Community Sport Media Team, our group also runs the CAMPS Project alongside the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation’s recLINK program. The Connecting Athletes of All Means to Paths in Sport Project links OCH children & youth to free opportunities with our partner sports groups, which receive heavily discounted advertising in exchange for offering the positions in their programs at no cost to our participants. CAMPS PROJECT PARTNERS Beaver Boxing Club Capital City Dance CARHA Hockey Carleton Jr. Ravens Elmdale Lawn Bowling Club ÉSP/Dome Louis-Riel Footy For All/Footy Sevens For Pivots Sake Gloucester Griffins Lacrosse Gloucester Skating Club Kanata Rhythmic Gymnastics Club KV Dance Studio Nepean Corona School of Gymnastics Nepean Hotspurs Soccer Club Nepean Nighthawks Field Hockey Ottawa Beavers-Banshees Rugby Ottawa City Soccer Club Ottawa Girls’ Hockey Association Ottawa Gymnastics Centre Ottawa Lions Track & Field Club Ottawa National Diving Club Ottawa New Edinburgh Club Ottawa River Canoe Club Ottawa Rowing Club Ottawa South United Soccer Club Ottawa Sport Council Ottawa Table Tennis Club Ottawa TFC Soccer Club Ottawa Titans Water Polo Club RA Centre Rideau Canoe Club Rideau Sports Centre Royal City Soccer Club TRYumph Gymnastics Academy Tumblers Gymnastics Centre YMCA-YWCA

Team of the Month: Ottawa’s National Women’s U18 Team Summer Camp invitees From left to right: Jade Maisonneuve, Mya Vaslet and Hillary Sterling. About: Maisonneuve, Vaslet and Sterling were the three Ottawa girls named to Hockey Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team Summer Camp. There were 59 players invited in total. Maisonneuve hails from St-Isidore, Ont. and played last season for the Ottawa Jr. Lady Grads in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). Vaslet, of Stittsville, Ont. and Sterling, originally of Richmond, Ont. were teammates with the Nepean Wildcats in the PWHL last season.

About: Ottawa’s Luke Allan was named to Nordiq Canada’s special “prospects” roster in May. Allan was one of just four Canadians announced to the development-level group that was revealed alongside the upcoming year’s National Ski Team, which Nordiq hopes will compete for future Olympic contention. At last year’s Canadian Ski Championships, which was held as Allan’s home track at Nakkertok Nordic Ski Centre, he won four silver medals and one gold as a juvenile age racer.

E-mail editor@sportsottawa.com to nominate your Stars! Courtesy of the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region, the selected Stars of the Month will receive free passes to the Y.

Barca Academy shutdown shocked partner, shortchanged parents By Cameron Chaddad The sports world has been turned upside down during the COVID-19 pandemic and Ottawa’s soccer community has not been immune. In early May, BCN Sports, which ran the FC Barcelona brand Barca Academy soccer program in Ottawa, announced it would be filing for insolvency. The company ran Barca Academy programs throughout the country in Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Its folding took many by surprise, including those who were involved with it in Ottawa, who are now searching for answers. Mere weeks before the pandemic sidelined sports, families were urged by BCN Sports to sign up for March Break camps and to pay ahead. When camp dates neared, they were cancelled. BCN Sports abandoned their refund policies and have refused to give families their money back, in many cases. Maddix Robert had been playing soccer with the Barca Academy since it opened up shop in Ottawa in 2016, according to his father James. This year was also going to be Maddix’s sister’s first year also playing with the program. The Robert family is now out $2,145 because of BCN Sports’ shutdown. James said his re-

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quests for refunds have not been responded to. James is now a part of a Facebook group called “BCN Sports & Barca Academy defrauded us,” with more than 300 members who say they’re in a similar situation. The Globe and Mail reported that families across Canada have lost anywhere between $500 to $19,000 because of the closures of the BCN Sports-run academies and the company’s refusal to give refunds. “Let us not forget how bad this is for the kids,” Robert said. “The team is where they’ve made friends and now that social network is gone and they have to

start over.” Robert said he had appreciated the academy’s staff and said he hoped they’re not forgotten amidst the mess either. “There were so many good people involved and they were also blindsided by this and are now out of jobs,” he added. École secondaire publique Louis-Riel was a partner of the Barca Academy, but while BCN Sports operated its academy on Louis-Riel’s grounds, the head of Louis-Riel’s soccer program says he, too, received no word ahead of its sudden shutdown. “We were very happy with the partnership and the expertise the [Barcelona] coaches brought. (It)

was a great growing opportunity for our staff and players. However, we also got no heads up or warning that this was coming,” said Joé Fournier, the technical director of Louis-Riel’s soccer school said. Fournier stressed that while the school followed the methodology of the Barca Academy, they are separate, and this will not affect his program moving forward. He said, as well, that Louis-Riel has begun engaging with other potential partners to replace BCN Sports. The company has kept quiet about the shutdown since announcing it. In a statement about BCN Sports’ intention to declare insolvency, FC Barcelona put out a message of its own, saying it “stands by the families” who were impacted. “(FC Barcelona) will do everything possible to ensure BCN Sports reimburses the registration fees for cancelled activities,” the press release from FC Barcelona says. Robert says he’s still disappointed with what he feels has been inaction from the club. “At the end of the day we signed up to play under the Barcelona name, not BCN and we want more than just their support. We want action to be taken,” Robert said.


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Profile for Dan Plouffe

Ottawa Sportspage  

The June 24, 2020 edition of the Ottawa Sportspage newspaper

Ottawa Sportspage  

The June 24, 2020 edition of the Ottawa Sportspage newspaper