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Team Homan is 3-for-3 in nationals held nearby, with 2018 Olympic trials in Ottawa on the horizon.
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Family the driving force behind World Cup rookie’s skeleton career, netting 4 medals in debut season By Dan Plouffe
New clubs and new facilities are popping up all over the city in gymnastics-mad Ottawa.
When Mimi Rahneva was 10, her parents moved their family from Bulgaria to Canada to open more doors for their three daughters in life. The move serving as the launchpad for an international skeleton career and a sudden Canadian Olympic medal hope – that wasn’t necessarily
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what they’d envisioned. “I don’t think they had it quite all planned out,” smiles Rahneva, who’s rocketed onto the World Cup skeleton circuit with an unreal rookie campaign that’s brought her up to #4 in the world rankings. “They’ve made a lot of sacrifices, leaving education and careers behind for our opportunity. I’m definitely very grateful.”
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Rahneva knew virtually zero English at the time she moved to Canada. “Not knowing a lot of the language, it was just easier to hang out with people with a common interest in sport,” recalls the Meadowlands Public School grad who quickly signed up for the cross-country running team. “I definitely used sport as a way to connect with people and integrate into a
group of friends.” Within a year, Rahneva announced she’d be going to summer camps with the Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club, cycling from her family’s townhouse near the Nepean Sportsplex to Terry Fox Athletic Facility and back daily (quite the bike ride for a preteen).
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Scotties champs want to keep up home team win streak at Roar By Dan Plouffe Team Homan kept their perfect record as the home team at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts alive to capture a third career national women’s curling crown on Feb. 26 in St. Catharines. The Ottawa Curling Club rink won their first championship representing Ontario in Kingston in 2013, and were also effectively the home team when they won title #2 down the road in Montreal. The third victory was the most nerve-racking of the bunch, an 8-6 extra-end win over Manitoba’s Michelle Englot. “That’s the hardest win we have ever fought for, I think, especially with all the pressure and everything on the line,” says skip Rachel Homan, who missed a chance to score 4 and effectively end the game in the 7th end, survived a harrowing takeout in the 10th to get to the extra end, and then scored with the hammer in 11th. “We gave it everything we had and it was just enough,” adds the 27-yearold University of Ottawa grad now studying at the University of Alberta. “We’re representing Canada and it’s a surreal feeling. I can’t wait to put the maple leaf on.”
Team Homan will wear Canadian colours in the World Women’s Curling Championship Mar. 18-26 in Beijing, though their greater long-term objective is to sport red and white again in Asia come the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. The World Curling Tour’s #1-ranked team is eager to ride the wave of home team success onto victory at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Olympic curling trials come December at Canadian Tire Centre. “We watched the Brier last year, and it was great to see how many people from Ottawa were out there cheering,” notes lead Lisa Weagle. “We hope we get the same kind of support when we’re there. It’s really exciting.” Weagle, who’s curled with Team Homan since 2010, has never played a tournament in Ottawa with the group, and it’s been 10+ years since Homan and third Emma Miskew had a qualifier in town as juniors. “We practice here all the time, but there hasn’t been an event here in awhile,” notes Miskew, adding that every match provides a learning opportunity leading into the trials. “Everything that we’re doing is for a purpose. We’re learning from every
loss, and even every win, because it’s never perfect, but we’re always trying to maintain a high level of play.” Each team member has put their jobs outside of curling on hold in order to focus all their energy on reaching the Olympics. “I love it,” signals Weagle, who will return from leave at Sport Canada after the Olympic cycle. “It’s really nice to be able to just focus on curling fulltime, and all those other parts of the game too, like recovery, mental training, practice and all that.”
Home race for Crashed Ice series traveller By Anil Jhalli When Daniel Guolla was just 16 years old, he stumbled on a Crashed Ice event on television and said to himself, “That’s the coolest thing I have ever seen and I’m going to that some day.” Fast-forward 10 years later and Guolla is the lone Ottawa athlete set to compete in the 2017 Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship on Mar. 4 in his hometown. Crashed Ice skaters will be competing on an ice track just over 300 metres long, beginning slightly above Chateau Laurier’s outdoor terrace, through the Rideau Canal locks, and finishing at the Ottawa River. Part of Ottawa’s 2017 celebrations of Canada’s 150th birthday, the event is expected to draw thousands of spectators, including piles of Guolla’s friends and family. “I’m a pretty laid back guy, and I don’t let a lot of things get to me,” signals Guolla, who works a retail position at Nordstrom in the Rideau Centre when he’s not speeding down tracks made of ice. “But the lead-up to this is a lot different than anything else. Having it in Ottawa is so special, and I’m just ready to go.” The former Stittsville Jr. ‘B’ hockey player first competed in the sport – known as downhill ice cross under the banner of its international sports federation – in 2009, as soon as he was old enough to be eligible for competition. But the bumps and pulled hamstring from that race in Quebec City made Guolla rethink his entire approach. “I honestly didn’t know how difficult it really is,” he recalls. “I was only 18 and I don’t think I was
Daniel Guolla (top).
Keeping fresh is a key focus for the team since travel and tournaments can be tiring. Not playing in this year’s Continental Cup right before the Ontario Championships proved beneficial, says Weagle. “We were really rested going into provincials this year,” indicates the uOttawa communications grad. “We were in a really good place as a team.” Half the rink’s roster remains based in Ottawa, while Homan has moved to Edmonton (for school and marriage), joining Joanne Courtney,
the newest member of the team and an Edmonton native. But the team’s connection on and off the ice continues to grow strong, attest the players who came together with an eye on 2018. “We’re more like sisters than anything at this point,” highlights Courtney. “They’re my second family.” Team Homan will have an even greater extended family supporting them come the Roar of the Rings in town, courtesy Ottawa’s thriving local curling community. It’s sweet to see other local curlers succeed, says Weagle, such as the Ontario junior-champion Rideau Curling Club crew that came within one win of a national crown, and Manotick-raised Jamie Sinclair, the Alaska-born skip of the St. Paul, MN-based team that won the USA Curling nationals in February. “Ottawa has a really great curling scene,” underlines Weagle, noting they each came up through local Little Rock and junior programs. “It’s nice to see those programs are alive and well,” adds the 31-year-old who recently visited her old Granite Curling Club. “They had so many kids there, and all really excited about curling. That’s really great to see, and it’s really great having so much support from everyone.”
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entirely ready.” Using the memory of Quebec City as motivation, Guolla worked on improvements, and by age 22, he was regularly competing in Crashed Ice events around the world. The experienced downhill skier attended this season’s first two Crashed Ice events in France and Finland, and was ranked 21st in the world after those races. “I’ve been to a lot of places, but I’m really looking forward to competing in Ottawa,” underlines Guolla, who finished 2nd in the team competition at the 2015 worlds. “I’ve had so many great memories, but I know Ottawa will top them all.”
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REBELLES ROCK BBALL, VBALL & ALPINE The Louis-Riel Rebelles pulled away in the late stages of their national capital high school senior boys’ basketball ‘A’ championship game against the Notre Dame Eagles (which does not include players who are part of the Canada Topflight Academy program run out of their school) on Feb. 23 at Carleton University. “The guys played their hearts out and they deserved to win,” signals Rebelles coach and past Louis-Riel/University of Ottawa GeeGees player Alex Éthier. photo: dan plouffe Playing up in the ‘AA’ division for medium-sized schools despite their smaller student population, the Ashbury Colts concluded a dominant undefeated season with a 52-30 victory over A.Y. Jackson in their city final, while the big boys saved the best for last as the St. Patrick Irish edged the Franco-Ouest Vikings 61-60 to claim the capital’s ‘AAA’ crown. Each of the champion teams move on to the Mar. 6-8 OFSAA provincial championships – ‘A’ in Windsor, ‘AA’ in Sault Ste. Marie and ‘AAA’ in North Bay. The Rebelles also earned an OFSAA berth for the Mar. 6-8 ‘A’ girls’ volleyball championships in Welland thanks to their city final win over Maurice-Lapointe, while the Franco-Cité Faucons downed Samuel-Genest to advance to ‘AA’ OFSAA in Belleville, and Glebe swept Béatrice-Desloges to qualify for ‘AAA’ provincials in Barrie. The Louis-Riel boys’ alpine ski team earned a pair of silver medals at their Feb. 27-28 provincials in Collingwood. Antoine Deslauriers, Damon Kral, Rhode Quirk and Justin Néron tied Oakville Trafalgar for 1st in placement points in the open boys’ slalom team competition (but were bumped to 2nd on the combined time tiebreaker) and also placed 2nd in the giant slalom event. The Nepean lineup of Claire Stewart, Jillian Lynott, Ella Farah and Molly McCarthy (open girls’ slalom) and South Carleton’s Alexa Trenholm, Emily Butler, Emily Chisholm, Finn Johnston and Sophie Kasdorf (high school girls’ slalom) both earned team bronze medals. —Dan Plouffe
– HIGH SCHOOLS – OCSB adds basketball & football academies By Austin Stanton As the Notre Dame Catholic High School-based Canada Topflight Academy boys’ basketball program shoots for a title in their inaugural season later this month at the National Preparatory Association (NPA) Championships in Toronto, the Ottawa Catholic School Board is also readying to add another pair of specialized sports programs come this fall. CTA will launch a girls’ basketball program out of Immaculata High School for the 2017-18 school year to mirror their current boys’ team. “It was an easy sell to do the women’s based on what we’re doing on the guys’ side,” says CTA director Tony House, a veteran of the Ottawa basketball scene. House founded CTA because he saw a need for a prep school program in Ottawa. The former University of Manitoba Bisons player felt there were too many talented local players leaving to play in the United States or Toronto. The Ottawa boys have quickly shown they can keep up with the league’s best. After 5 losses to open their first campaign, CTA has reeled off 10 wins in a row against opponents opponents from Saskatchewan, British Columbia and New Brunswick, as well as Ontario. But House is most pleased with his team’s classroom success.
St. Joseph CHS will launch a new high-performance football program this fall.
“Our guys are doing very well from an academic standpoint. They understand they are a ‘student-athlete,’ in that order,” he underlines. “If you score 40 on the court, that’s one thing. If you score 40 in the classroom, you’re going nowhere.” There is of course plenty of basketball too, though that only begins after the final school bell and a mandatory study hall session from 3-4:15 p.m. The typical day features weights, cardio, ball-handling, or shoot-around from 5-5:30 p.m., followed by a 2-hour practice. The girls’ program will benefit from the year of knowledge gained by House and his team on the boys’ side. They’ll also have a pair of well-known local coaches leading the charge, including long-time University of Ottawa Gee-Gees assistant and St. Peter CHS coach Mario Gaetano, and Jaime McLean, who coached an undefeated team to a Canadian Youth Basketball League title
last year under House’s Ottawa Elite club banner. While the girls’ program doesn’t have any commits yet, House thinks that will change after the first parent-student information meeting in March. “People are still waiting to see if we get into the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association, waiting to see how it unveils,” House says of the Ontario/Canada Basketball-backed loop for prep school-style teams. “I’m very confident. I’ve surrounded myself with very good people – the best in the business – and I think it won’t take long to assemble the women’s team.”
FOOTBALL ACADEMY AT ST. JOE’S Along with girls’ basketball at Immaculata, the OCSB will also welcome an elite football program at St. Joseph CHS. Modelled after the Football North program that launched in Mississauga last year, the team will play a schedule primarily against U.S. schools. “Our goal is to attract and retain top Canadian talent and keep them in Canada,” program director Blaine Scatcherd says in a press release. “Working with the OCSB, we will provide the student-athletes an opportunity to specialize in year-round football training and compete against the top high school teams and coaches in North America.”
NCAA scholarship, prospective pro career on tap for Barrhaven tennis talent By Dan Plouffe At 6 a.m., you won’t find a whole bunch of 17-year-olds on the tennis court, let alone out of bed for that matter. But the early rise is part of the daily routine for Ottawa native Malik Bhatnagar, a rising prospect headed to Florida on an NCAA Div. 1 scholarship come this fall. Bhatnagar will train for an hour and a half before school starts, then he’s back at his club for another two-and-a-half hours in the afternoon, followed by an hour of fitness afterwards. “It’s a pretty busy schedule, but I love the sport, and that’s what it takes to get to the next level,” signals the Cedarview Middle School grad who moved the Burlington and the ACE tennis academy at the start of high school. “I put in a lot of work, but it’s worth it.” Bhatnagar began playing tennis at age 5 under his father’s watch and took more of a competitive focus come age 11. He began having success provincially and nationally, which led him to setup shop in Burlington. The recent Ontario under-18 singles and
Malik Bhatnagar. doubles champion still spends his summers in Ottawa, playing primarily out of the Barrhaven Tennis Club, and can be found indoors the Rideau Tennis Club or at past coach Tony Milo’s Carleton Tennis Centre when he’s back in winter. Bhatnagar has earned a number of titles and runner-up finishes on the International Ten-
photo: steve kingsman
nis Federation junior circuit, including his trip to Guatemala this past summer. The 2016 Ottawa Sports Awards tennis player of the year also gained a spot in the local tennis history books as the youngest player to win the Kunstadt Open this past summer. “That was a really great event,” reflects
photo: daniel prinn
On top of setting a Canadian record for attendance at a home Davis Cup event, the local tennis community also attempted to get in the Guinness record books for the most people simultaneously bouncing a ball on a tennis racquet during the Feb. 3-5 event at TD Place.
Bhatnagar, who won the final over Washi Gervais, a seeded player in the ITF Futures event taking place Feb. 27-Mar. 5 at La Sporthèque in Gatineau. “There was a great crowd and they televised it. It was really fun.” Bhatnagar also competed at the region’s highest-level event featuring players generally ranked between 200 and 400 in the world, including Canadian Davis Cup team member Denis Shapovalov. Granted a wildcard entry into the Gatineau Futures main draw, Bhatnagar exited in a 6-3, 6-2 defeat to 29-year-old German Tim Puetz, who’s competed at the Australian Open and Wimbledon in the past. “It’s really good experience. Playing at this higher level is always nice,” notes Bhatnagar, who is also chasing ATP ranking points. “That’s kind of where it all starts. You try to build your ATP ranking and then get on the pro circuit from there.” Long-term, Bhatnagar would like to play professionally, though on his more immediate horizon is an NCAA scholarship to play for the Stetson University Hatters in Florida starting this fall. With the prospect of a looming career that will likely take him to many more points on the globe, the chance to see the budding talent in action close to home drew a big crowd of supporters to his match in Gatineau. Bhatnagar is buoyed to have the “special” local tennis community behind him. “I’ve met some really great people along the way,” he says, underlining the excellent local coaching in his formative years. “I’ve made some friends that will last a lifetime for sure.”
mpionnat franco-ontarien – HIGH SCHOOLS – TATION DES REBELLES Fun rules for high school skiers CONTRE «Get Set!»
Rockin’ Rebelles Wrap
Louis-Riel Track Series brings high-quality meets to grassroots
Midway through its 2017 Rebelles Athletics Series, Louis-Riel high school is providing a lift from the long winter days with an impressive array of high-quality indoor track-and-field meets at its signature Dome LR facility. “We’re happy to open our doors to everyone, and try to promote the sport by hosting these events,” says Rebelles athletics coach Sébastien Lalonde, the Series’ lead organizer. “People definitely enjoy coming in to prepare for their high school season and get the excitement going leading into the outdoor racing season.” From introductory meets for intermediate students up to the Franco-Ontario Championships, the collection of competitions runs nearly every Thursday from February through April, the first of which was a combined events challenge on Feb. 9. “For a lot of athletes, it can be a chance to do some events that they haven’t tried out before and maybe discover they’re good at them,” notes Lalonde. Members of the Louis-Riel sports-études program enjoy the luxuries of the world-class Dome facility on a daily basis, though the Series provides a venue for athletes from other schools locally and out-of-town to experience some premiere practice time. For runners, it’s an opportunity to properly pace themselves without the variable conditions of outdoor winter running. And for pole vaulters, for example, it’s
S D’ATHLÉTISME INTÉRIEURES: 20 AVRIL photo: dan plouffe
Nepean skier Nick Cheney, who blasted his closest competitors at city finals by over 2 minutes and 3 1/2 minutes in his two races. “I didn’t do school skiing every year in high school, but I came back to the team this year and it was so much fun that I am looking forward to skiing at university.” The national capital event drew another pair of champions from the Feb. 3-5 Easterns – Nakkertok/Glebe’s Ben Milley (10 km skate) and Pierre Grall-Johnston (7.5 km classic & 3 km prologue).
nordic success at the university level too, with the Carleton Ravens men’s and women’s squads both earning Ontario team titles at their Feb. 24-26 provincials in Midland. Easterns 15 km pursuit champion Zoë Williams led the Ravens with a pair of individual silver medals. A dozen Carleton athletes earned conference all-star status – Megan Evans, Emily Jones, Isabelle Maclean, Maggie McClure, Alyssa Stowe and Williams, along with Brendon Howard, Aidan Kirkham, Carrington Pomeroy, Patrick van Walraven, Colin Ward and Chris Weller.
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simply the only place in the region with the equipment and facilities to hone their craft once the snow flies. A wintertime home to Canadian Olympians such as Segun Makinde, Sekou Kaba, and Lanni Marchant, the Dome LR features Canada’s only 400-metre indoor track, an internationally-recognized Mondo surface, and a FinishLynx photo-finish timing system. “Only at some universities will you even find a 200-metre indoor track,” highlights Lalonde. “Ours is 400 metres, so you’re not turning as much, and you’ve got the full-length straightaway for the sprints. “We’re the only facility of its kind.” Louis-Riel has hosted a total of 66 track-and-field/ cross-country events since 2008, and has partnered with other organizations such as the Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club to hold 53 more within that time period. In the past year alone, Louis-Riel welcomed close to 5,000 participants for its meets that offer a high level of professionalism for the grassroots level. The biggest objective of the series nonetheless remains fundamentally simple. “It’s really about promoting an active lifestyle, and this is a great way for young students to live that,” underlines Lalonde, who welcomes volunteers from the community to help officiate the events. “The feedback we get from athletes and coaches is always very positive. They’re really fun meets.” For more information, visit louisrielathxc.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Un professionnalisme élevé pour des rencontres de développement À mi-chemin dans la série de rencontres d’athlétisme des Rebelles de 2017, l’école secondaire Louis-Riel relève le moral des troupes pendant les longues journées d’hiver grâce au choix impressionnant de compétitions de haute qualité offert au Dôme. « Nous sommes heureux d’ouvrir nos portes à tous et nous essayons de promouvoir le sport en nous faisant l’hôte de ces événements », affirme Sébastien Lalonde, entraîneur d’athlétisme des Rebelles et principal organisateur de la série. « Les coureurs adorent définitivement pouvoir se préparer à leur prochaine saison et ils entrevoient frénétiquement les futures compétitions qui auront lieu à l’extérieur. » Les élèves de niveau intermédiaire, de leurs tout débuts jusqu’aux championnats franco-ontariens, peuvent prendre part à l’ensemble des compétitions qui ont lieu en principe tous les jeudis, de février jusqu’à avril, la première compétition en épreuves combinées ayant eu lieu le 9 février. « Pour un grand nombre d’athlètes, cela peut représenter la possibilité de se joindre à certains événements auxquels ils n’ont jamais osé prendre part et ainsi de découvrir qu’ils y sont très compétents », remarque Lalonde. Les membres du programme sports-études de Louis-Riel apprécient chaque jour le confort du Dôme, une installation de calibre
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By Anne Duggan
Alia Sanger may have bigger fish to fry as a cross-country skier than the national capital high school championships, but there isn’t a better venue to bake cookies. That was the treat the Lisgar Collegiate Institute student made to support her teammates, though she certainly deserved one herself after completing the sweep of the senior girls’ category in her final high school race on Feb. 14 at Nakkertok Nordic in Cantley. “It might be pretty with all of the snow, but it made for much tougher conditions,” commented the Chelsea Nordiq club skier who’d captured an Eastern Canadian 10 km free title earlier in February. “But, it is so great to ski with a team.” The team atmosphere was a repeated refrain for many of the top athletes explaining why they choose to race for their schools when they’ve got more bigger competitions on tap. “It was fun,” signalled
mondial, bien que les athlètes d’autres écoles locales et de l’extérieur puissent aussi s’y exercer pendant les rencontres. Pour les coureurs, c’est l’occasion d’établir leur rythme de travail sans subir l’assaut des conditions hivernales variables qui règnent dehors. Pour ce qui est des adeptes de saut à la perche, par exemple, c’est tout simplement le seul endroit dans la région doté d’un équipement et d’installations pour pratiquer leur art lorsque l’hiver se pointe. Le Dôme, où s’exercent pendant l’hiver des olympiens canadiens tels que Segun Makinde, Sekou Kaba et Lanni Marchant, présente la seule piste intérieure de 400 mètres au Canada, une surface Mondo reconnue dans le monde entier, ainsi qu’un système de chronométrage et de photographie au fil d’arrivée FinishLynx. « Même une piste intérieure de 200 mètres, vous n’en trouverez que dans certaines universités », souligne Lalonde. « La nôtre
mesure 400 mètres, ce qui fait que les virages ne sont pas aussi fréquents et que les courses de vitesse sont effectuées sur un parcours entièrement rectiligne. Cette installation est absolument unique en son genre. » Louis-Riel a été l’hôte de 66 épreuves d’athlétisme ou de cross depuis 2008, et s’est uni avec d’autres organismes tels que l’Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club pour rajouter un autre 53 au total. Dans la dernière année uniquement, presque 5 000 y ont participé. Les rencontres sont organisées avec un niveau élevé de professionnalisme, bien que l’objectif le plus important reste d’une simplicité désarmante. « Nous visons réellement à promouvoir un mode de vie actif, et c’est un excellent moyen pour aider nos jeunes élèves à y parvenir », souligne Lalonde, qui voit positivement l’arrivée de bénévoles de la communauté qui l’appuieront en jouant le rôle d’arbitres pendant la tenue des événements. « Les commentaires des athlètes et des entraîneurs sont toujours très positifs. Les compétitions sont réellement très agréables. » Pour obtenir de plus amples renseignements, envoyez un courriel à email@example.com ou consultez le site à louisrielathxc.com .
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Diverse gymnastics scene adds new facilities By Dan Plouffe
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With numerous new facilities opening and under development, a plethora of competitions hosted locally, athletes excelling at the top levels, and diverse forms of the sport practiced in different pockets of the city, gymnastics’ popularity is exploding in Ottawa. There are many new local artistic gymnastics clubs on the scene, such as Kanata Gymnosphere, Barrhaven’s Precision Gymnastics, and Resolute Gymnastics, set to move to Kanata. Longer-running suburban clubs continue to grow in membership and space. Olympia Gymnastics has expanded its facility on the border of Kanata and Stittsville, Les Sittelles recently moved into its new home on Taylor Creek Dr., and fellow Orleans club Tumblers Gymnastics Centre is eyeing an innovative development that would see it move in a few years. Older clubs within the city’s core such as Ottawa Gymnastics Centre and NepeanCorona continue to welcome thousands themselves, while Starr Gymnastics focuses on recreational gymnastics at three locations. Other forms of gymnastics have gained a foothold too. Laws of Motion has found a niche as local innovators of parkour, the Spring Action club led by 2004 Olympian Heather Ross-McManus specializes in trampoline, and the Kanata, Ottawa and Pirouette rhythmic gymnastics clubs all have their own long histories. “All the gym clubs in Ottawa, and across Canada, everybody has their place,” highlights Laurie Loh, a veteran of the local gymnastics scene, now based at Kanata Gymnosphere. “It’s great to see kids in the gym being active, no matter what
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Olympia’s Alison Overton & Sonia Chirila at Ottawa’s firstever Ontario Acro Cup. level they’re doing.”
1st LOCAL ACRO CUP An
FIRST ENVOL AT SITTELLES’ NEW HOME
The following weekend brought another milestone competition to town as Les Sittelles hosted the first edition of their 28-year-old Envol competition on Feb. 25-26 at their new facility in Orleans. “This is a big project,” underTUMBLERS.CA | 613.834.4334 lines general manager Jocelyne 330 VANTAGE DR. K4A 3W1 Legault. “It’s so refreshing to TUMBLERS.CA | 613.834.4334 TUMBLERS.CA | 613.834.4334 TUMBLERS.CA | 613.834.4334 know that it’s going well.” |DR. 613.834.4334 330TUMBLERS.CA VANTAGE DR. K4A 3W1 330 K4A Les Sittelles are also set 330VANTAGE VANTAGE DR. K4A3W1 3W1 to kick off a new sports-study 330 VANTAGE DR. K4A 3W1
program in conjunction with the French Catholic school board come next fall. “Gymnastics is a sport that requires a lot of training,” notes Legault, with 12 to 20 hours a week the norm in competitive. “Those kids now can now train right after school and be done at 5 or 6 and have their evenings and weekends to themselves, and the parents too. It’s a better balance for their family life.”
gymnastics made its local debut as Olympia Gymnastics hosted the region’s first-ever Ontario Acro Cup Feb. 18-19. “It’s a very exciting sport to watch,” says Olympia head coach Nausikaa Muresan, noting the Cirque du Soleil-style feats can resemble cheerleading on occasion. “There’s definitely a ‘wow’ factor to it.” Switching into acro gave Olympia’s Alison Overton new life in gymnastics. “I was kind of ready for a change, but I didn’t want to drop gymnastics right away,” signals the Grade 11 All Saints Catholic High School student who now has a lighter training load compared to her competitive artistic background. Tackling an “amazing” new discipline has been fun, she notes, as has getting the opportunity to work with athletes who are younger (and smaller/ easier to lift and throw). “I’ve always wanted to have a tiny sister who I could be an influence on,” indicates Overton, also an Olympia coach. “It’s fun. They laugh easily at my jokes.” Overton’s pairs partner, 10-year-old Sonia Chirila, likewise enjoys having more experienced athletes guide her. “They know more, so if I’m having trouble with one part, they will know how to fix it,” she explains. The Acro Cup featured 200 athletes and drew over 1,000 spectators. It was the first competition of any kind Olympia has hosted, and came days after the club opened its expanded space to accommodate a warm-up area and registration. “We now have the perfect size and shape for a gymnastics facility,” manager Dezso Mesko says of his 12-year-old club that now occupies 15,000 square feet.
photo: daniel prinn
UNLIKELY ELITE CANADA MEDAL FOR SR. HP GYMNAST AFTER BACK INJURY Local gymnasts performed on big stages outside the city in February as well. National Capital/OGC product Sam Zakutney earned the third conference rookie of the week honour of his young NCAA career at Penn State. And well-decorated 16-year-old gymnast Sofia Baggio earned perhaps the biggest medal of her career yet – her first in senior high-performance against the country’s best gymnasts of any age – with a vault event final bronze at Elite Canada Feb. 2-5 in Halifax. “My friend Shallon (Olsen) just came from the Olympics and I made it to vault finals with her,” notes the past Canadian champ in the national open division. “I was just taking it all in to be with these girls. It’s crazy that I’m in the same level as them.” Baggio’s medal win is all the more remarkable considering she couldn’t even bend over 2 weeks before the competition, struck by a back injury. “I was really excited just to be there,” underlines Baggio, who had to skip out on the uneven bars event due to the injury. “I was just proud of myself for going out there even when I was in a lot of pain. Through that whole competition, I was really uncom-
Rideau’s Sofia Baggio won an Elite Canada vault bronze medal in Halifax. fortable, but I pushed through because I wanted to be there so badly.” Persistence is an ongoing theme in Baggio’s breakthrough, having been through a “really tough” year where she struggled to simply find a place to train. Baggio changed clubs multiple times, but is now back with long-time coach Siarhei Bialkovich. “I did go through ups and downs, and wasn’t sure what I was doing with gym, I didn’t know if my head was all there,” says the Rideau Gymnastics athlete. “But right
now I can tell myself that I’m so happy that I kept working and am still doing gym, because I absolutely love it.” The Rideau competitive team and associated Resolute Gymnastics Centre sprung from Baggio and a handful of other athletes’ struggles. The club will soon take full possession of a 25,000 square-foot facility in the Kanata Town Centre that it hopes to have ready for gymnastics come early June. Featuring elite series equipment and soft landing pits beside every apparatus (minus low-flying pommel horse) to relieve pressure on gymnasts’ joints, the centre is being created to best serve athletes striving for high performance in the sport, says Resolute co-owner Atanas Popov, who visited top facilities in Great Britain created in advance of the London 2012 to help develop his plans. “I think this is a combination of the best of everything that they have,” he indicates. “If you have the athletes that are willing and you don’t have the proper setup, the results will never come. “If you have the setup along with the coaches, it’s inevitable that sometime down the road we’ll have kids that could go all the way.”
TUMBLERS EYE POSSIBLE MOVE TO FUTURE PURPOSE-BUILT SPORTS HUB Though they missed their planned Elite Canada appearance due to injury, Juliette Chapman and Hanna Nixon from Tumblers Gymnastics Centre were granted exemptions to compete at the Canadian Championships later this season based on their strong past results. Their club is another one deep into new facility development plans, having recently unveiled an initial concept to its competitive program participants for a new and bigger home near Mer-Bleue and Innes roads in Orleans. The proposed project would see
Tumblers become the anchor tenant of a sports services hub that could include smaller spaces for other sports like floor hockey, basketball or obstacle course racing, plus other complimentary businesses like a physiotherapy clinic or a yoga studio. “There is a genuine interest on the team that’s working to build this property to leave some sort of legacy for the community,” says Brian Dagenais of the Black Sheep Developments company leading the project. “If it serves as a model for others to be built, whether in Ottawa, or another city, then it has a chance to be something
Juliette Chapman & Hanna Nixon (right) are nationals-bound.
very, very special.”
KANATA GYMNOSPHERE IMPORTS PAIR OF ROMANIA-TRAINED COACHES Ana Maria Huncu (left) and Fiodor Martea.
photos: dan plouffe
With the ever-growing interest in gymnastics, it’s been a struggle for many clubs to find capable coaches to keep up with the demand, particularly for the top competitive levels. At Kanata Gymnosphere, their solution is to bring in high-level coaches from overseas. Romania-born Ana Maria Huncu arrived in January after 17 years in Italy, while former Republic of Moldova national team gymnast Fiodor Martea has been coaching the competitive program since August. The mentality behind coach development in eastern Europe is quite different,
Loh underlines, noting Martea spent five years in university in Romania to earn his masters degree in sport science with a specialization in artistic gymnastics. “Each club is supported by government, the ministry of education,” Martea illustrates as an example of the seriousness of gymnastics in eastern Europe, though gymnastics at a recreational level simply didn’t exist back home, he adds. “Here, you have a very big base of kids from which you can find those kids you’d love to have in competitive,” highlights the 25-year-old. “This is very positive. In Canada, everyone can do gymnastics.”
The community’s enthusiasm for the sport also struck Huncu, who’s enjoyed “a warm welcome in a cold country,” she smiles. “I was amazed by the amount of people coming on the weekend,” signals the coach who worked with Sydney 2000 Olympic allaround champion Andreea Raducan for close to three years when she was a teenager with her hometown Barlad club. “I like that they like gymnastics,” Huncu adds. “You have lots of opportunities to grow, in gymnastics with techniques, and you prepare them for life also. It really helps the kids grow up better.”
Olympia doubles facility size, maintains tight community feel
Much like the young athletes they’ve nurtured over the 12 years since their 2005 opening in the Kanata/Stittsville area, Olympia Gymnastics is all grown up now thanks to a recent expansion that brings the popular centre up to 15,000 square feet. “We just took the opportunity to make the perfect size of gym,” explains executive manager Dezso Mesko, whose club has added new lighting too. “I never expected to grow this big to be honest, but the demand was very high, so I just had to adjust my outlook and move forward to accommodate as many people as we can.” The additional space will benefit the wide range of existing Olympia programs – including its fun-filled March Break & Summer Camps, Artistic Gymnastics programs from first steps through to competitive, Trampoline & Tumbling, and Acrobatic Gymnastics – and will also enable increased program diversity. The new area will be ready for gymnastics at the start of spring, with plans to add more specialized equipment on the horizon. The added room also makes it possible for Olympia to host competitions – they’d like to host a women’s artistic event in 2018, and the local pioneers of acrobatic gymnastics recently hosted Ottawa’s first Ontario Acro Cup in February. Amongst those competing at the Acro Cup was Alison Overton. “I’ve been at the gym since it was just one tiny room, right from the beginning,” recounts the 16-year-old Olympia veteran. “I’m so happy Dezso and Silvana (Mesko) were able to expand the gym to what it is today. It’s really amazing.” Overton first came to Olympia as a 4-year-old, progressing from recreational through competitive artistic gymnastics, and is now a member of Eastern Ontario’s first, and only, acro team. She says she enjoys a bond “like sisters” with her fellow gymnasts, as well as the younger preschool and CanGym recreational athletes she now coaches herself. Olympia has become known for its family atmosphere and a tight community feel, sprung from its small beginnings. “That won’t ever change,” pledges Mesko. “Some of those who were with us at the beginning are now parents and their kids are coming to toddler classes. And we have generations of athletes who have grown up with us and are now coaching. “Some families have moved from the west end into Ottawa but they still come here because they like the small community. It’s a really nice feeling here.” The expansion does mean that some who may have thought Olympia was too small in the past can now have confidence that their needs can be met. The club also offers the luxury of strong stability within its coaching ranks, having worked with the same staff since its 2005 opening, including head coach Nausikaa Muresan. “We were here yesterday, we are here today, and we will be here tomorrow,” Mesko smiles.
MARCH BREAK CAMP REGISTRATION OPEN! SPRING SESSION STARTS MARCH 20TH!
Between Kanata & Stittsville at 44 Iber Rd. 613-836-9149 www.olympiagymnastics.ca
– UNIVERSITIES – GGs star wins FISU hockey silver Why Hockey Players
Should Play Lacrosse
Anyone serious about hockey should be playing lacrosse.
From Gretzky to Tavares, Shanahan to Stamkos, Canadian-born NHLers recommend playing lacrosse in the summer to improve hockey skills. @griffinslax Take their word for it: “It’s lacrosse that helped teach me to spin off checks, take shots and protect the puck under pressure. My stick skills, the way to read the play quickly comes from lacrosse. The hand-eye coordination, is just one of the little things that helps you in hockey.” – John Tavares I could hardly wait to get my lacrosse stick out and start throwing the ball against the walls and working on our moves as we played the lacrosse equivalent to road hockey. All the good hockey players seemed to play lacrosse in those days and everyone of them learned something from the game photo: steve to carry over to the other - things kingsman athletes can only learn by mixing up A former Gloucester Griffin, the games they play when they are Ottawa Senator Cody Ceci is young.” just one current NHLer who played lacrosse growing up. – Wayne Gretzky Both hockey and lacrosse are high tempo, physical team sports that have similar elements to the game. Both sports utilize 5 players and a goalie, three periods and a strategy of developing odd-man situations to create scoring opportunities. Hockey players excel in Lacrosse, and, in turn, they become markedly better hockey players. Comparatively, lacrosse is a much less expensive sport than hockey and uses much of the same protective upper body equipment.
HOCKEY PLAYERS BENEFIT FROM LACROSSE BY DEVELOPING: • Stick handling creativity • Creativity in tight areas • Reading the play offensively • Strong, dynamic defensive tactics • Strength and endurance • An appreciation for a new, fast-paced sport • The use of both hands • Better hand-eye coordination • Heads-up play - teaches players to play with their head up and to be more aware of their surroundings
• Quickness and agility around the net • Self esteem, respect, integrity and fairness • Leadership skills • Both offensive and defensive positions and the ability to make a quick transition from defense to offence and vice versa • Scoring skills are honed by shooting at smaller targets and picking corners • Creativity of fakes, back passes and shots
By Alex Quevillon
It can’t be easy turning common enemies into teammates in such short time. Nor can it be easy coming just short of a gold medal to take home. But Mélodie Bouchard of the University of Ottawa GeeGees savoured her time at the Jan. 29-Feb. 8 FISU World Student Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan nonetheless, despite the bittersweet finale.
“I’m really thankful to have been part of this,” signals the Canadian women’s hockey team’s #2 scorer at the tournament. “It looks like the Olympic Games with the opening ceremony and the athletes’ village. Everything was big there. We were treated very well.” If the Canadians didn’t feel settled in already with their accommodations, they certainly were by their easy road through the preliminary round.
Bouchard, the Gee-Gees’ leading scorer, needed less than 7 minutes to pick up her first marker in a 9-1 blowout win over China. She added a hat trick in a 14-0 win over Great Britain, and with 11-0 and 8-0 wins over Kazakhstan and USA (in the semi-final), Canada took a 42-2 goal differential into the championship game against Russia. “It was tough to lose gold,” says Bouchard, held off the
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scoresheet in the 4-1 final. “But finishing 2nd shows the efforts we had all tournament. I think I played as well as I could all tournament and my linemates had helped me a lot to perform well, so I’m happy.” Sprinkled throughout the lineup were a number of players who are rivals in Canadian university competition on most days, including former Nepean Wildcats Provincial Women’s Hockey League star Maude Laramée, now with the Université de Montréal Carabins. “I play all regular season against the Carabins, so I played against Laramée, (Jessica) Cormier, (Alexandra) Labelle and (Catherine) Dubois, and for this tournament, they were my teammates,” Bouchard notes. “That was special.” Upon returning, the SeptÎles, Que.-born forward was instantly thrown back into the. Her Gee-Gees wound up dropping a double-overtime contest to McGill in their series opener, and then forced a deciding game with Bouchard’s winning goal in a 2-1 home-ice win before falling 5-2 in Game 3 on Feb. 26 to come within a win of qualifying for the nationals. Bouchard views FISU as an event that will prove beneficial to her career long-term. “I think I understood lots of things with Team Canada to help me to be a good leader with the Gee-Gees,” underlines the 2016 national university rookie-of-the-year. “I’m so thankful for the amazing experience.” Four Carleton Ravens also brought home hockey hardware from the FISU Games. Team Canada leading scorer Michael McNamee, Cody Van Stralen, Brett Welychka and Corey Durocher earned a bronze medal with the Canadian men’s team. Carleton’s Carrington Pomeroy earned his best cross-country skiing result in the men’s 30 km classic race, finishing 42nd.
OTTAWA SPORTSPAGE SNAPSHOTS LOCAL NATIONAL RINGETTE LEAGUE TEAMS TO RENEW RIVALRY WITH NATIONALS BERTH ON THE LINE It’ll be the battle of the capital as the Ottawa Ice and Gloucester Devils face off in the National Ringette League playoffs on Mar. 4-5 with a spot in the nationals on the line. The 16-6-2 Ice won all four regular season contests over the 13-9-2 Devils this year. It was Gloucester that downed Ottawa however at last year’s nationals en route to a silver medal (with the Ice claiming bronze), though only one will get the chance to compete in this year’s finals tournament.
FIGURE SKATERS LEAD LOCAL GANG TO SPECIAL OLYMPICS Katie Xu and Jack Fan of the Goulbourn Skating Club used a Feb. 4 Special Olympics Ontario home invitational meet as a final tune-up in advance of the Mar. 14-25 Special Olympics World Games, where they’ll compete for Canada in Austria. Other local athletes on the team include Michael Roy (nordic skiing) and Kevin Dooks (snowshoeing).
OSU Force Academy Zone
3 OSU players join Toronto FC Academy
UNIVERSITY RECORD & BIGGEST MEDAL HAUL OF MEET FOR SELTENREICH-HODGSON Rio 2016 Olympian Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson was the most decorated athlete at the Canadian university swimming championships to lead her University of British Columbia Thunderbirds to the national team title. The Nepean-Kanata Barracudas/GO Kingfish product won 5 gold medals and 2 silver while setting a new (short-course) championship record of 2:08.09 in her signature 200-metre individual medley race. Gee-Gees swimmer Montana Champagne earned 3 medals himself at the Feb. 24-26 nationals in Sherbrooke, winning 400 m IM gold alongside 2 silver.
OTTAWA-BRED WRESTLER COMPLETES PERFECT CAREER UNIVERSITY RECORD University of New Brunswick wrestler Ilya Abelev joined select company as one of the few athletes to win a fifth-career Canadian university title by capturing the men’s 72 kg division at the Feb. 24-26 nationals in Winnipeg. Abelev didn’t allow any of his opponents to score a single point and was named the outstanding male wrestler at the competition. With medical school on the horizon, the Earl of March Secondary School grad maintains a perfect record in the classroom as well with a 4.3 (A+) GPA. Fellow UNB wrestler/Ottawa native Alex Brown-Theriault won silver in the men’s 82 kg event.
THE CYCLERY RIDER WINS TRACK WORLD CUP BRONZE The Cyclery rider Ariane Bonhomme helped a young Canadian entry win a World Cup bronze medal in the women’s team pursuit event on Feb. 20 in Colombia. “It was a big day but very exciting,” the 21-year-old Ottawa Bicycle Club product from Gatineau said in a Cycling Canada media release. “We nailed it down in the final. It was perfect.”
SNOWBOARDER LESLIE 5TH AT HOME PARA WORLDS Ottawa Akademy snowboard product John Leslie earned his top result of 5th place in the men’s banked slalom lower limb 2 race at the Feb. 4-7 World Para Snowboard Championships in Kelowna.
CHARTRAND TAKES 11TH AT FOUR CONTINENTS Not long removed from an ankle injury that hobbled her at January’s Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, locally-brewed Canadian bronze medallist Alaine Chartrand earned an 11th-place finish at the ISU Four Continents event on Feb. 21 in South Korea.
MAVERICKS ALUM MAKES CANADIAN BEACH VOLLEYBALL TEAM Ottawa Mavericks/University of Toronto alum Charlotte Sider has cracked Canada’s senior national women’s beach volleyball team and will wear the maple leaf internationally this season, Volleyball Canada announced in February.
OTTAWA-NEPEAN DIVER 5TH AT SENIOR NATIONALS Grade 11 St. Joseph Catholic High School student Henry McKay placed 5th in open competition against the best in the country at Diving Canada’s Winter Senior National Championships in Calgary. The Ottawa-Nepean Diving Club athlete earned his result on Feb. 17 in the men’s 3 m springboard event.
– ELITE – Rio rugby medallist returns to action with a bang By Mat LaBranche The Southern Hemisphere continues to treat Natasha Watcham-Roy and her Canadian women’s rugby sevens team well, as they followed up their 2016 bronze medal in Rio with a World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series stage championship in Sydney, Australia. “We just kept building,” recounts the past University of Ottawa Gee-Gees captain from Gatineau. “We definitely had our ups and downs. We didn’t have the best team performance in the group stage against (Olympic silver-medallist) New Zealand (a 31-10 loss), but we knew after that that we had our biggest game and that it was quarter-finals that mattered, so we came out really strong there (26-5 win over Russia). “After that, we just stuck to the process and took it one play at a time and I think that’s what helped us to stay calm and confident, and we ended up coming out with the win.” The victory definitely came at an opportune time for Canada, as they were coming off a subpar 6th-place finish at the series opener back in December in Dubai.
“We didn’t perform like we wanted to (in Dubai),” indicates Watcham-Roy, who started all three round robin matches in Sydney and was substituted into each playoff match. “We knew we were better than what we put out, so we just wanted to show that in Sydney and that’s what we did.” Canada downed Olympic champion and host Australia 12-7 in the Sydney semi-finals, then claimed their title with a narrow 21-17 win over USA, which was far from a walk in the park, Watcham-Roy signals. “It was pretty back-and-forth. There wasn’t a clear advantage for either team,” recalls the 2015 Pan Am Games champion who’d claimed gold with a 55-7 thumping of the U.S. in Toronto. “The U.S. is such a good team because they’re so strong and physical. I think it was our ability to stay in
the game and maintain possession, and our aerial skills, that really helped us to win it.” The Sydney win was Canada’s third alltime Series title, though it still proves difficult to top last summer’s bronze medal win at the five-ring circus. Watcham-Roy says that was the kind of moment she’d envisioned ever since she first started the sport. “It was it was an absolute dream come true,” smiles the 24-year-old who’s been with the national team in Langford, B.C. for just over 3 years. “It was always my goal to represent Canada, and to perform like we did on such a big stage is something words can’t describe. “Every time I wear the jersey I’m filled with pride and just excited to perform and show Canada what we can do as a team and what I can do as well.” Watcham-Roy takes equal pride in the impact that capturing the bronze medal had on the entire country. “It was great for the sport of rugby,” underlines the uOttawa health sciences grad. “It really helped it to grow and people became more interested. The amount of people who watch and who want to play now is amazing.”
Ottawa South United Force Academy is very pleased to announce that Daniel Assaf, Antonio Carlini and Mehdi Essoussi have joined the Toronto F.C. Academy Program this winter. Having three players from the same team advance into a MLS Academy simultaneously is an incredible achievement for our club. Daniel Assaf joined OSU at U9 and quickly worked his way up to the OSU Force Black Team. He became a dominant centre-forward who continued to produce goals, even as the team entered into the OPDL in 2013. Assaf has been recognized as a member of Team Ontario as well as a call-up to the U15 Boys National Team Camp. Antonio Carlini joined OSU at U12 as an impressive centre-midfielder. His technical ability, passion and intensity in training and games helped him stand out at the provincial level. He has also been a member of Team Ontario as well as receiving an invitation to a Regional National ID Camp for Canada. Antonio’s sister, Amelia will also graduate from OSU this fall by joining Cape Breton University. Mehdi Essoussi joined OSU at U9 and again at U13, after time overseas. His individual ability, first as a winger stood out provincially before transitioning into an attacking midfield role. He has been a member of Team Ontario, while receiving an invitation to the Regional National ID Camp for Canada. He was also part of a select team through Puma who travelled to Italy to train and compete with the Italian National Team. “To have three players move into a professional academy from this team is a great achievement for us,” noted Club Technical Director, Paul Harris. “During their time in OSU, these boys have consistently dedicated themselves each time they step on the field to better themselves. At their age, they now have a great opportunity in front of them, to maximize their development in the game. They will need to continue to demand more of themselves in the Toronto F.C. Academy.” OSU would like to thank the many coaches who have assisted in the development of these players over the years, including: Martin McCoy, Chris Yzerman, Dave Barbier, Jacques Barbier, Craig Stead, Paul Harris and Simon Wilshaw.
PLAYERS IN VANCOUVER FOR WHITECAPS CAMP
Nine OSU players were invited to a high performance camp in midFebruary as part of our new affiliation with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Five girls represented OSU during a week long High Performance Player Camp with the Vancouver Whitecaps REX Program, working with Head Coach Emma Humphries. Four boys worked with the Major League Soccer club’s Residency Program. They were reunited with OSU products Matteo De Brienne and Keenan Foley, who joined the Whitecaps Residency Program in July 2016 and January 2017, respectively. The week included working with the Whitecaps’ Academy Coaches, matches against the Academy and observation from National Team Staff and University coaches. It is a great launch to our new partnership with Vancouver Whitecaps.
– EDITORIAL –
Sportspage welcomes new coordinator for its CAMPS Project access-to-sport initiative Mailing address: 345 Meadowbreeze Dr. Kanata, Ont. K2M 0K3 Contact: Editor: Dan Plouffe 613-261-5838 Editor@SportsOttawa.com OTTAWA COMMUNITY SPORT MEDIA TEAM Board of Directors Josh Bell Anne Duggan John Haime Josh Karanja Dan Plouffe (Executive Director) Mohamed Sofa Doug Scorrar 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 promotes access-to-sports initiatives for local youth who live in social housing communities.
RAHNEVA: Ottawa’s new sliding sports star continued from Cover “I was determined,” reflects Rahneva. “I even rollerbladed when I had a flat tire. Nothing would stop me.” The Merivale High School grad continued to build her athletic repertoire while with the Marauders, adding wrestling to running, and later touch football, though it was with a strong group of athletes and program that she settled into rugby as her primary pursuit. The former Ottawa Banshees club player went on to win 3 Ontario gold and 4 Canadian bronze medals with the Guelph University Gryphons before deciding she’d like to take a crack at sliding head-first down a bobsled track, taking her first run at Lake Placid with the Ontario program. Rahneva packed up and moved west in 2014 to setup shop at the national team’s home base in Calgary. Before the current dream season came “a lot of ups and downs. It wasn’t until this season – Rahneva’s fifth – that she managed to win a World Cup spot. “In retrospect, I’m glad it took me so long to get here,” signals the 28-year-old. “The level of competition within Canada is so large that as an athlete coming up the ranks, once you hit the world stage, you’re ready.”
The Ottawa Sportspage is exceptionally pleased to welcome a new member to our team, Nick Nishikawa. Nick will lead an expansion of our CAMPS Project, a program that provides free organized sport opportunities to low-income children and youth from Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhoods. The Connecting Athletes of All Means to Paths in Sport Project is an initiative run jointly by the notfor-profit organization that operates the Ottawa Sportspage and the OCH Foundation’s recLINK program. “Growing up, I was fortunate to have had the chance to play a variety of sports and I firmly believe that sport was an important part of my personal development,” Nick says. “I’m really looking forward to sharing that experience with others through the CAMPS Project.” Nick grew up in Ottawa and attended Colonel By Secondary School, helping their basketball team to an
OFSAA provincial championships appearance in his senior year. The past Ottawa Guardsmen, Sirius Spartans and Nepean Bobcats club player went on to become captain of the McGill Redmen varsity basketball team, and received an award recognizing his academic excellence and community service leadership. Nick later served as a University of Ottawa Gee-Gees assistant coach and earned a human kinetics masters degree in sports management from uOttawa. He has past professional experience with TrojanOne, a sponsorship and marketing agency in Toronto, and the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup in Ottawa. What drew him to the CAMPS Project was the opportunity to work with the groups that drive Ottawa’s vibrant sports scene and to provide opportunities for children and youth to be part of their high-quality programs, in a wide range of sports.
“The response from the organizations we have met with already has been fantastic,” Nick signals. “Beyond the health benefits of regular physical activity, the people involved in local sport really seem to understand that an integral part of sport is learning intangible life skills like self-confidence, perseverance, teamwork, and leadership. “It’s a real pleasure to get to collaborate with these like-minded organizations and grow the CAMPS Project.” Nick is joining our team thanks in large part to support from the Community Foundation of Ottawa through the Community Foundations of Canada’s Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, which is activating a breathtaking array of initiatives and activities to bring out the best Canada has to offer for the sesquicentennial. The Ottawa Sportspage is thrilled to be part of this movement, and to open doors for local children and
YMCA-YMCA OF THE NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION STARS OF THE MONTH Team of the Month: National Capital Wrestling Club Ontario Cadet-Juvenile Championships Team
About: A dozen young National Capital Wrestling Club athletes put in one of the club’s most successful provincials performances ever at the Feb. 4 Ontario Cadet & Juvenile Championships in Brampton. Three-quarters earned top-6 placings, with 7 of 12 on the podium, including provincial champs Jessica Hong (cadet women’s 43 kg), Ibrahim Ayyoub (cadet men’s 80 kg), Cole McKee (CM 100 kg) and Devan Larkin (juvenile men’s 65 kg).
Last season provided another major hurdle. Rahneva had been coming off an exceptional 2014-15 campaign where she’d won the North American developmental circuit’s overall title and was poised to transition to the global stage. But around the time of the Canadian Championships, Rahneva’s mother – who’d been battling cancer for about a year – had a big health scare. Rahneva missed earning a spot on the 2015-16 World Cup team at the selections, then went straight home and took a “much-needed” step back from sport to be with family. “It puts everything back into perspective,” highlights Rahneva, who draws inspiration from her parents whenever she feels down. “Any challenge that I’m going through, I know my parents have
handled challenges 100 times bigger,” she explains. “It kind of makes my obstacles look very small and makes me work through them.”
EXPLOSIVE ROOKIE YEAR The 2016-17 campaign has been the season Rahneva was waiting for, and more. She was “ecstatic” to set a new track start record and finish 5th in her December World Cup debut at Whistler. Then it got even better at the next stop in Lake Placid, the track where her skeleton journey began. “It was such a special trip,” recounts Rahneva, who routinely clocks the best or close to the best starts on the circuit. “My mom was there and I think she’d only seen me race one before. When I saw her at the bottom, and it was just the best feeling in the world.” The rookie has kept up the pace since then, winning another bronze in Winterberg, Germany, a silver in Igls, Austria, and a historic gold in St.
Athletes of the Month: Addison Felhaver & Miller Lee Sport: Acro Gymnastics
Team Members: Bailey Agard, Ibrahim Ayyoub, Yousef Berjawi, Taha Chahrour, Zaki Hamidi, Jessica Hong, Omar Jawhar, Moiz Lakhani, Devan Larkin, Cole McKee, Ahmed Mohamed & Matt Vecchio.
MOM’S CANCER BATTLE ‘MAKES MY OBSTACLES LOOK VERY SMALL’
youth to discover the tremendous benefits organized sport can offer. “It’s wonderful that we’ll be able to reach a greater number of kids this year, but what we’re even more excited about the legacy this project will leave beyond 2017,” highlights Sportspage editor Dan Plouffe. “Nick will help us put the pieces in place to deliver these opportunities at an enhanced rate for many years to come and make a really positive impact on many kids’ lives. “We know members of the local sports community will be really impressed by Nick’s abilities to build relationships and help us to collectively create stronger and brighter communities.” For more information on the CAMPS Project, visit us online at OttawaSportsCAMPS.ca or contact Nick at 613-422-1555 or by e-mail: CAMPSProject@OCHFoundation.ca. —Ottawa Sportspage staff, with files from Martina Mukete
About: These Olympia Gymnastics athletes won a bronze medal for the host club in the Level 6 women’s pairs competition at the season’s first Ontario Acro Cup on Feb. 17-18. It was the first time a provincial competition has been held in Ottawa for the emerging sport of acrobatic gymnastics.
Moritz, Switzerland. Dedicating her performance to her recently-deceased grandmother, Rahneva was utterly dominant against the world’s best in St. Moritz. Her 1.83-second advantage over the 2ndplace athlete was the largest margin of victory recorded in at least the past decade, and perhaps ever (the International Bobsleigh and Sketelon Federation only has digital records dating back 10 years, and in that time, only one other female athlete has even won by more than a full second). “It was just crazy,” recalls Rahneva. “I knew I had a really solid run, but that’s kind of insane.” The dominant performance sent out a signal loud and clear that Rahneva will be a contender for the podium, if not a favourite, come the 2018 Winter Olympics. The final stop of the World Cup season will be in PyeongChang from Mar. 13-19. “The Olympics are looking a little more promising,” Rahneva signals.
“I’m feeling a little more confident with my ability to represent Canada well there.” Never far from Rahneva’s mind are the family, friends and supporters who have made her emergence possible. She sends her mom postcards to from every stop. “We’re kind of closer now, even with all this distance apart,” highlights Rahneva, who spends as much time as she can back home. “It’s kind of entertaining for her as well.” After Rahneva bombs down an ice track (fearlessly like a 10-year-old Canadian kid on a toboggan hill), she’ll always give a grin and a “Hi Mom!” to the TV cameras – an Olympic contender who’s still a young girl having the time of her life. “A heart, a wave, a kiss – I do what I can,” smiles Rahneva. “My mom doesn’t miss very many of my races, so I always say hello to her. “I’m really grateful for where I’ve come from. It means a lot to me.”
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