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Dec. 16, 2020
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MARTIN CLEARY CATCH
P.12 & 14-15
The Ottawa Sports Pages proudly welcomes 47-year local sportswriting vet Martin Cleary.
Hear more local voices speak about race and sport as part of our Inclusion in Sport Series.
A Gay Wrestler’s Story
Wrestler-turned-academic shares his experiences/views on coming out in a macho sport By Stuart Miller-Davis & Dan Plouffe
We spotlight the impact COVID continues to make on the local community sports scene.
Towards the end of his decorated career, word had started trickling around the Canadian wrestling community that Tyler Marghetis was gay. One night, a bunch of different teams were out at a bar after a tournament. The 76 kg wrestler was shooting pool when a rival came up and challenged him.
“‘Hey Marghetis, I hear you’re gay,’” was the uncreative barb thrown, Marghetis recounts. “And I said, ‘Yeah.’ There’s sort of this little moment of pause, and then the heavyweight on my team came out of nowhere, and sent the guy flying – just propelled him through space and time. “In my mind – and I mean, this isn’t what actually happened – but the way I remember it, the guy hits the wall like in a cartoon and slowly slides
INCLUSION IN SPORT SERIES
This edition of the Ottawa Sports Pages features Part 2 of our Inclusion in Sport Series, focused on the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion. See page 2 for the Series intro. back down, and then the big heavyweight just stands there, with arms crossed, and is like, ‘Alright kid, you can go back and play now.’
“I mean, I don’t even know if that was a homophobic moment, maybe it was just competitors trying to get under each other’s skin, and yes, it was probably unnecessary to send this poor guy flying through space, but to know that my big hulking teammate was there to defend me, even though I didn’t need it, it still definitely felt good to know that my boys had my back.”
MARGHETIS continues on p.5
~ INCLUSION IN SPORT: LGBTQ+ ~
Ottawa’s bid to host inclusive rugby tournament bumped to 2022 By Stuart Miller-Davis
Ottawa TFC Telegram
4 seniors sign with NCAA / U Sports teams
They’ve been part of a groundbreaking group of provincial and national champions, and now four senior members of the Ottawa TFC elite girls’ Academy have solidified their plans to chase glory with varsity soccer programs both near and far. “This is such an amazing group,” says Ottawa TFC General Manager Pavel Cancura, who coached the club’s under-17 girls’ team to Eastern Ontario’s first-ever national championship at the top youth level in 2019. “It’s really great for our younger players to have these great athletes and people to look up to, and to be able to see that their hard work pays off,” Cancura adds. “A lot of them are coaches for us too and have been a part of the club for so long. We’re just so proud to see them move on to the next level.” An Ontario Cup champion with Ottawa TFC’s root club Cumberland United in 2018, Sheridan Michel moved on to join Canada Soccer’s Regional EXCEL Program in Toronto. “Although Sheridan isn’t with us full-time anymore, she always visits and trains with us when she returns home,” Cancura notes. “She definitely holds a very strong place in this graduating class.” A former winger, Michel cried when her coach first moved her to centre-back, though the move has ultimately bore fruit as the Ottawa TFC player since age 7 is now set to join the Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12 conference. “I am beyond excited to be continuing my education and soccer journey at the University of Oklahoma next year,” indicates Michel, a past St. Peter Catholic High School student. Kylen Grant will also head south of the border, though not quite as far, when she joins the Syracuse Orange. “Kylen has the athleticism to make a great attacking back for our team,” states Syracuse Head Coach Nicky Adams, highlighting the future science student’s versatility on the back line. “She’s someone who brings great enthusiasm and a great attitude. Her coaches cannot speak highly enough about her character and what she brought to their team over the years.” Grant built her athleticism through skiing, track-and-field and basketball on top of soccer, which the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School senior fit in despite her 35-to-40-minute hair routine. Amélia Thompson will get closer to the TFC part of her club’s name when she joins the Varsity Blues and studies nursing at the University of Toronto. “Ottawa TFC has always felt like home and I’ve always loved being around all the coaches, staff, and players,” signals Thompson, who treasures the memories from her team’s national championship run. “That’s a moment I will never forget,” underlines the St. Peter senior who was born in Indiana. “I’ve also coached the young players in the club for 3 years and I love it. It’s what has inspired me to work with children in the future.” After winning an unprecedented trio of Ontario Player Development League Cup, Shield and League crowns, Juliann Lacasse joined Ottawa TFC’s Sr. Girls Academy for her final year of youth soccer. “I’ve gotten to play with a great group of girls here,” highlights Lacasse, whose passion is soccer, though she also has a soft spot for musical theatre. The Colonel By Secondary School senior has enjoyed reuniting with one of her first goalkeeper coaches in Shane Goski at Ottawa TFC, and she’ll soon rejoin another one of the early formative forces in her soccer journey with David Bellemare at the University of Ottawa. “The local youth goalkeepers will definitely look forward to seeing one of their role models play on Gee-Gees turf,” shares Cancura. “And we’re so excited to see what amazing things all these players will continue to do in their university and college careers.”
For the Ottawa Wolves, 2020 was supposed to be a year to be proud of. They were to be the first Canadian host of a tradition held biannually by the gay rugby community in memory of one of its beloved members. The Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament (Bingham Cup), which pre-pandemic was to be held this past August, honours Mark Bingham. Bingham was a two-time national rugby champion with the California Golden Bears. After his NCAA days, Bingham continued playing with the San Francisco Fog, a gay-and-inclusive rugby club. He was also involved in the founding of the Gotham Knights, a gay-and-inclusive team in New York City. On Sept. 11, 2001, Bingham boarded United Airlines Flight 93 travelling from Newark, N.J. to San Francisco. After terrorists took over the plane’s cockpit, Bingham was part of a group of passengers who hatched a plan to take back control from the hijackers. It’s believed that the passengers were able to breach the plane’s cockpit, causing it to crash in a field in Pennsylvania. The hijackers had veered the plane toward Washington, D.C., and are suspected to have been planning to crash it into the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building. There were no survivors from the flight. Bingham was killed at 31 years old. Every two years since 2002, gay rugby players have come together in his honour. The Ottawa Wolves bid on the rights to host the Bingham Cup this year and won but will now be hosting the tournament in 2022 instead.
Sydney, Australia, is one of five international destinations the Ottawa Wolves have travelled to since 2010 to play in the Bingham Cup. The Wolves themselves ia,” Laberge told the Sports to the IGR family as well,” he have only be around since Pages. “Then the Bingham said. Laberge added that the 2008, when the club was Cup came and with it the inclusive nature of rugby, and enshrining in the four major founded by Jay Smidt and Carl Pilon. In 2013, the club sports in Australia that there in a wider way the inclusive became the first Canadian is no discrimination against environment of the Bingham member organization of In- LGBTQ+. They all amended Cup has allowed him and ternational Gay Rugby (IGR) their sporting codes and that others a space to be themkind of started this massive selves. to add a women’s team. “For me, there was alSince 2010 the Wolves social political pressure.” Between 2004 and ways a split in me where I have been travelling around the world to play in the Bing- 2017 there were 22 un- felt I could be ‘athlete J-F’, or ham Cup. It’s grown since successful attempts in Aus- I could be ‘gay J-F’, but the their first appearance to tralia’s Parliament to legalize athlete and gay J-F could nevbecome the world’s largest or recognize same-sex mar- er be one. That is what incluamateur rugby union tourna- riage. After almost two-thirds sive rugby is all about; seeing of Australians voted in a ref- everybody being themselves ment. One Wolves highlight in erendum in late 2017 in fa- 100 per cent… and not havthe event came in Nashville vour of same-sex marriage, ing to hide and having a blast in 2016, when they won the the country passed a law re- of it and challenging themHoagland Jug – named for defining marriage as “a union selves,” Laberge said. When take-two of OtBingham’s mother, Alice Ho- of two people.” Laberge, who works in tawa’s attempt to host the agland. But more important- Ottawa as a lawyer, has also Bingham Cup happens in ly the event has the ability been a driving force behind 2022, Laberge hopes the to change lives, said for- bringing the Bingham Cup to near 2,200 participants mer Wolves captain Jean- Ottawa as the president of from 65 countries that had François Laberge, who has the board behind the Wolves’ originally planned to come in 2020 make it to Canada’s been to every Bingham Cup bid. For him, being involved capital. that the Wolves have particThe event will also for the with Ottawa’s Bingham Cup ipated in. Laberge recalls the Syd- bid presented an opportunity first time feature a “murderney, Australia tournament to give back to a community ball” (wheelchair rugby) showcase. A legal conference is in 2014, where marriage that he cares deeply for. “This was kind of my last being planned with the Uniequality was a hot-button issue in the country at the hurrah. Canada had never versity of Ottawa in tandem hosted, and I said, ‘This is of the event, where the sotime. “Everybody (was) saying going to be my gift back to cial and legal challenges that (same sex marriage was) nev- my club, to the Ontario and trans athletes face will be er going to happen in Austral- Canadian rugby families and discussed.
INCLUSION IN SPORT SERIES Welcome to Part 2 of our Inclusion in Sport Series. Following up on our October edition, which sought to spotlight stories about race and sport in Ottawa, we dedicated this newspaper to LGBTQ+ issues in sport. There’s little debate that the sports world is lagging behind society in terms of combating homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination, which many of the local voices featured in this edition highlight. But there are also stories of acceptance, progress and hope for the future. We attempt to elevate the stories of local LGBTQ+ athletes and coaches and share thoughts from leaders about
how they’ve seen sexual orientation and gender identity viewed by their sporting peers and the larger community. It’s not lost on us that these stories – ones of devastation when inclusivity is disregarded in favour of bullying, and others of progress on topics that have long-gone ignored – only scratch the surface of what LGBTQ+ people face in the world of sports. We certainly welcome your feedback on how we can best continue to shine a light on these topics as the Inclusion in Sport Series continues. Please send your thoughts to Editor@OttawaSportsPages.ca. –Charlie Pinkerton & Dan Plouffe
~ INCLUSION IN SPORT SERIES: LGBTQ+ ~ Long-time coach’s experience highlights the importance of LGBTQ+ representation By Stuart Miller-Davis Early in her coaching career Shelley Coolidge walked into a dressing room and saw a player wearing a shirt that read, “I’m here, I’m queer, deal with it,” and it made her very proud. “For myself, at that time, still a closeted coach, I thought this individual has got more courage than I’ve ever had,” she recalled in a recent phone interview with the Ottawa Sports Pages. “It made me proud to see that individuals were courageous enough to be out in the communities and to challenge the norms that were out there.” Originally from Saskatchewan, Coolidge was the manager of women’s hockey at Hockey Canada before joining the University of Ottawa GeeGees in 2003 for a six-year tenure as the program manager and head coach. She then held the same position with the Carleton Ravens from 2009-2014. Since her departure from Carleton, she has worked with the Interna-
tional Ice Hockey Federation and the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC). She currently is self employed running Cool Edge Consulting, working as a mentor, a coach developer, and consultant in Ottawa. Coolidge said it was pretty taboo to be out as gay or lesbian while she was competing as a young hockey player. “I went through quite a long period through high school and university just sort of questioning who I was and trying to find ways during that time to be straight because there weren’t many athletes that were out,” she said. “It was a time and a period where there weren’t many role models who spoke about it. As I started to get into the workforce, you could get fired for being a gay individual.” But as her career progressed, Coolidge came to know that as a coach trying to help people who may be questioning their identity that your biggest job is to listen. “You need to have an open door and be available. Listening is a skillset that all
of us can continue to work hard on,” she said. “We need to make sure that we’re actually listening and supporting each individual and actually hearing what their concerns are.” The second thing is knowing when to refer to experts. “For some coaches it is
realizing when they don’t have the skillset, it’s being confident enough to refer them to people who can better help and support them,” she said. “I know at the university we had a lot of those avenues and it is important to know what those avenues are for the benefit of your athletes.”
Reflecting on her own experiences, Coolidge said Ottawa has become more welcome to LGBTQ+ coaches and athletes than it was years ago. “There’s a number of incredible role models not only in the community but also in and around university sport,” she said. “We have athletic directors here in Ottawa that see people first not necessarily by label, but they support diversity and inclusion.” A big part of becoming more welcoming for LGBTQ+ athletes as a city is education, Coolidge said. “National sport organizations, the CAC, Canadian Women in Sport and Respect Group are doing a much better job of educating coaches,” she said. “In the hockey community there’s specific training that wasn’t available 10 years ago. The more information we’re able to gather, and the more we set out to be lifelong learners, the better the Ottawa community is going to get.” Still, men’s sports have struggled to accept LGBTQ+
representation compared to their female counterparts. In Coolidge’s sport of hockey, Brock McGillis is the only out gay man to have been a pro. This is partly because there’s different pressure for male athletes than females, Coolidge said. “I don’t think that women coming out as gay or lesbian are perceived as threatening femininity,” she said. “I think it’s great for young boys and men to come out, but I do think there’s a perceived threat to their masculinity.” There are positive signs for gay male representation in sports like hockey: 17-yearold Drummondville Voltigeurs prospect Yanic Duplessis came out as gay in September. He’s said publicly that he hopes his decision will inspire others to feel comfortable following his lead. “He had the courage to come out and I think that the he’s going to be a real leader for young men,” she said. “I really hope the (QMJHL) surrounds and supports him in a way that helps them to do work in the right way.”
~ INCLUSION IN SPORT: LGBTQ+ ~
Nine years after the death of his son, Jamie, Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley’s anti-bullying mission is unrelenting Jamie Hubley
By Kieran Heffernan
Unsung Hometown Heroes Celebrating the Special People who Drive our Sports Community
Grooming a new hobby for outdoor enthusiasts: Rideau Winter Trail celebrates its third year
Ottawa is a fantastic City for live, work and play – and during a time when we have to stay home, keep our distance and remain healthy, it is more evident that we have ample opportunities to get outside and stay active. And there is a perfect option right downtown. The Rideau Winter Trail offers a 9-kilometres route from Rideau Sports Centre (1 Donald St.) south to Highway 417, towards Hurdman Station. Skiers can connect to the trail at three different spots, Donald Street, at the Highway 417 and the Hurdman LRT Bridge, or South of Hurdman Station by the Hospital Link. The with City of Ottawa trail includes a groomed area for cross counSport Commissioner try skiing, a “Bike path” for fat biking, snowMathieu Fleury shoe, and those who are walking. Additionally, the trail includes a 2.5-kilometre meandering loop in the grassy area near the Sports Centre, set for classic and skate skiers. Volunteer Chairman of the Rideau Winter Trail board of directors, Peter Nor, said there is no better feeling than being able to step out your front door and hop on a trail. “It just is fabulous,” he said, adding that he sees this trail, with its possibilities for several outdoor winter activities, as win-win-win. “Where else can you ski right downtown?” Nor said, boasting that you can take the LRT to Hurdman station and ski away. Motivated by similar trails across the City, Nor said the volunteer group is pleased with the current conditions, but the group has its sights set on ambitious goals to continue to expand the length of the trail. “We want to triple the length of the trail,” he said, explaining they’d ultimately like to have it reach Mooney’s Bay. The project began three years ago and is led by myself with support from fellow Councillors Shawn Menard and Rawlson King’s offices, along with the Rideau Sports Centre, the Overbrook Community Association and Action Sandy Hill. The organizing team has launched a fundraiser to help maintain the trail this year and expand it later. Grooming will occur once a week for 10 weeks, typically on a Thursday or Friday (weather dependent) – so that trail is in peak condition for weekend users. If you want to donate to support its grooming and operation, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Rideau-Winter-Trail-of-Ottawa
Do you know a local sports figure we should feature in the Unsung Hometown Heroes column? Let us know! Contact:
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News of Jamie Hubley’s death in 2011 was a wakeup call to Canadian politicians and educators that something needed to be done to combat bullying. Jamie, son of Ottawa city Coun. Allan Hubley, was 15 years old when he died by suicide after suffering from depression and having been bullied for being a figure skater and for being gay. In the nine years since, his family has participated in a number of initiatives in his memory. For example, each year the Jamie Hubley Memorial Scholarship goes to one person who is looking to get into the mental health field, and one person with mental health challenges looking to get into university. The family has also been in involved with creating an anti-bullying training video for hockey coaches. “All the coaches have to watch (the video) as part of a certification program that talks about the dangers. Like, we lost Jamie because of bullying,” Allan Hubley said in a recent interview. He said his son had been doing well as a figure skater, and would often place in the top 3 in local competitions and also came 7th in the provincial championships. Skating was also just some-
thing he really enjoyed doing. “That was the most important part about it. He loved to skate, and he liked to express himself through skating, which is something that draws a lot of people to figure skating,” Hubley said. Jamie found the sport, and the Glen Cairn Skating Club, to be a safe haven. “All the members of the club and the executive were very supportive of all the children that were there,” Hubley said. It was before and after his practices, rather, when Jamie was bullied. “If there were hockey teams out there before or after them, the hockey team players used to really bully the figure skaters. Say nasty things to them, try and really intimidate them. And that was a shame because nobody likes somebody with a stick in their hand talking crap to you,” Hubley said.
Jamie Hubley was a competitive figure skater.
The bullying was happening in school as well. Jamie had tried to start a Rainbow Club, but was never able to get it off the ground. “He got the posters up and all that stuff, but that’s when we lost him. The bullying for that was really intense,” Hubley said. In some ways, Hubley does think things have gotten better in the nine years since Jamie’s death. He points to Battle of the Blades, the CBC skating competition where hockey players team up with figure skaters, and how players have talked about bullying on the show. He was also recently contacted by Jamie’s former school. “There was a student from Holy Trinity that reached out to us this fall and they were doing an event for compassion week at the school, and they wanted to feature Jamie,” he said. Jamie had attended the school for a year. “We thought that was really nice of them to do that, and so they were able to talk to the other students about the dangers of bullying.” Hubley said he thinks that Jamie’s death, along with the suicides of other Canadian teens around the same time such as Daron Richardson, Rehtaeh Parsons, and Amanda Todd, made people realize the severity of issues like bullying and mental health. He and some of the others’ families know each other now because of their efforts to elicit a response from governments. “We’re close because we’ve traveled the same circuit. We all went to Parliament Hill to get them
to change legislation. We were in Queen’s Park getting the provincial legislation changed,” he said. One response from the federal government was to provide $250,000 to the Red Cross in 2013, to create the “Youth Take Charge” project. “They would go into the schools and train natural leaders of the school to be involved and to speak out against bullying, and to watch for cases like Jamie to try to help them before the lives are lost,” Hubley explained. Although schools and sports may be more accepting environments than nine years ago, a recent study out of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia revealed some startling results after surveying LGBTQ+ Canadians. The study, which was published in early December, found that 48 per cent of Canadian youth who come out to teammates reported being the target of homophobia. Hubley reflected on a conversation he had with Jamie that may point the way to how schools and other organizations can keep improving, moving forward. “You might have all kinds of different clubs at school, but it always helps people if you can have a club where everybody feels that they’re accepted and respected,” he said. “That’s why he liked the idea of the Rainbow Club. He thought that that would allow kids to talk about whatever their issue was, with the end goal being learning to respect and accept each other.”
Evelyn Sifton and the tug-of-war of being a trans athlete By Kieran Heffernan Ottawa’s Evelyn Sifton might spend 20-plus hours a week training, but she still considers bike racing just a hobby. Sifton has been cycling competitively since 2017 and is currently a member of the Shadow Elite Racing racing team, which she rides with mostly in Canada and the U.S., as she manages her day job in the film and television industry. But, when she came out as a trans woman, she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to keep racing at all. “I love racing. And so to give that up
would suck, but at the time I was ready to,” she said. “I didn’t think it was something I’d be able to do, so I’m very fortunate and very happy and thankful that I’m able to continue competing, as well as be myself.” Sifton came out in 2014, and had been a triathlete until a friend asked her to try a fixed gear criterium race. She finds cycling to be a bit more accepting than triathlon was, where she faced some pushback as a trans athlete. “Triathlon is a money sport,” she said. “There’s just a lot more privilege in that sport, I want to say. And so with
that tends to come more conservative attitudes.” Not everyone has been supportive in cycling either, though. “It’s funny, it’s mostly people who aren’t involved in the sport that have a problem with it, or it’s a lot of men involved in the sport who have a problem with it. But the women I race with don’t care and they’re all in favour of it,” she said, but added that there are a small number of vocal female athletes who don’t support her participation as well.
SIFTON continues page 6
~ INCLUSION IN SPORT SERIES: LGBTQ+ ~
MARGHETIS: Wrestler lived ‘exhausting double life’ as he kept sexuality hidden from teammates for long period continued from Cover Long before Marghetis found acceptance in a sport he’d feared wouldn’t welcome him the way it ultimately did, came his childhood in Ottawa, when he never considered that he could be gay. Now 37 and a neuroscience professor at the University of California, Merced, Marghetis started his athletic journey with the NepeanCorona gymnastics club before he discovered his love for the mats. The “luck of the universe” provided Canada’s top international referee as his school’s wrestling coach in Grade 7. Lee Mackay and others at the National Capital Wrestling Club helped launch Marghetis towards repeat OFSAA high school provincial triumphs and a place on Canada’s world junior championships team. He also ran, played rugby and was captain of “a very kind-hearted, suburban Catholic school football team that won one game the entire season,” smiles the former Mother Teresa Titan. Marghetis’ parents were open-minded and loving, but it wasn’t like LGBTQ+ rights were a topic at the dinner table. His upbringing just didn’t invite him to consider that he was anything other than heterosexual, and it wasn’t until his mid-20s while training and studying in Montreal that he started questioning. “I didn’t know any gay people – certainly not in the sports world, and not in my social world either,” explains Marghetis, who now won-
ders if his realization might not have been as delayed if he’d had any gay role models in his life. “And also, it was terrifying,” adds the 4-time national university champion for the Concordia Stingers. “It was terrifying because of the unknown, and it was terrifying because I was worried about disappointing people, and that included my family, that included my teammates, and my coaches. “And it was terrifying because I think I had a lot of internalized homophobia. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I might be one of these ‘lesser people.’ “Especially in the world of combat sports, there is, to this day, a real cult of macho heterosexuality. In my experience, it has never actually been directed, hateful, and actively homophobic, but it did pervade my social interactions in a way that sort of tainted the way that I felt about myself as a potentially queer person.” Marghetis eventually allowed himself to go on a date with another gay male. They played pool, then decided to catch a movie. Turns out the only one playing at the cinema was Brokeback Mountain. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it: it’s about a same-sex relationship between two men that ends with one dead in a ditch and the other completely devastated and alone. “I walked out of that movie shaken to my core, and realized that I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t straight,” Marghetis recalls, and within weeks, he
Tyler Marghetis was runner-up for Canada’s 2008 Olympic men’s 76 kg freestyle wrestling berth.
came out to friends and family. Some were surprised, and all were supportive. But when it came to his wrestling mates, he decided to keep his sexuality a secret for much longer. “I felt I had to live this really exhausting double life, honestly, not because I felt that the wrestlers would respond negatively, but more because I really wanted to excel in sport,” says Marghetis, who was eyeing a 2008 Olympic berth at the time. “I worried that if I were to come out, it would change the dynamic in the training room, with my training partners, and it would distract me from achieving my goals.” High-performance athletes often walk a fine line between working exceptionally hard to achieve their peak potential, and pushing themselves too hard and getting injured or burnt out. Years later, Marghetis feels that the extra energy he expended to hide his identity in fact tilted him over the edge. “In retrospect, I think it was the wrong choice,” signals the past Top-8 Academic All-Canadian who maintained a near-perfect GPA while studying mathematics. “I lost that spark of joy when I was in those wrestling environments because I was actively hiding a part of myself and my life that was actually such a source of excitement and happiness.” The cracks beneath the surface were already starting to show in the lead-up to the Canadian Olympic trials, and when he lost in the final, they were laid bare. Marghetis looks back on missing the Beijing Olympics “with great regret and frustration,” he kids (though maybe not entirely). “I did fall short of my goals, but with the wisdom of time, I’ve recognized that I never would have been satisfied,” says Marghetis, who really outclassed every man but one en route to becoming Canada’s Olympic alternate. “That’s the nature of high-performance sport – you’re always setting goals beyond where you are. “You know, in high school, I don’t think I ever would have
Now a neuroscience professor in California, Tyler Marghetis has been riding out the pandemic at his partner’s family’s home in rural Tennessee.
photo: collin lewis
imagined that I would have been a multi-university national champion, that I would have been able to travel the world representing Canada. “Sort of the curse of high-performance is that every time you accomplish one goal, you trick yourself into thinking that that wasn’t the thing you wanted, what you really want is the next thing. “But now I really am proud of the things I accomplished in wrestling.”
COMING OUT IN WRESTLING, BY ACCIDENT It was on the car ride home from the Olympic trials that Marghetis came out to his teammates. At the time, he had confided in one female teammate who he felt was a safe person to tell since she was open about her progressive political beliefs, but most of the team had no idea. “I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but one of the guys said something like, ‘What are you, gay?’ in this sort of joking, teasing way. And I said, ‘Yeah, I am,’” details Marghetis. “And it was sort of silence of the car. And then, ‘Are you serious?’ “’Yeah, I have a boyfriend.’ “’Oh, man, well, OK, sorry
I said that, like, that’s cool. I love you, bro.’ “And there was just this outpouring of support. And, again, a fair amount of confusion, because these are people who knew me to date women and had sort of seen me flirting and picking up women in various contexts. “And also just a lot of genuine curiosity, and concern, and support. It was really, really nice.” Word did quietly spread in the greater wrestling community. The reaction was largely supportive, or indifferent, though Marghetis does remember one university team did say aggressively homophobic things behind his back. He wishes he could have been there to put a human face to it and try to battle the ignorance and dehumanization that fuelled it. Marghetis, who later spoke to Montreal high schools about his experience coming out, was proud that he didn’t slink away during the incident at the pool hall because he recognizes there’s a lot of work to be done in combatting homophobia in sports. He doesn’t regret coming out to the wrestling world in the slightest, he only wishes he’d done it sooner.
Though his focus and dedication to training slipped after the Olympic trials, Marghetis says that wrestling free was what propelled him to his final university title the next spring. “I was no longer afraid,” underlines Marghetis, who earned a PhD at UC San Diego and has gone on to a highperformance career in academia. “For the first time in years, I could compete without a constant, low-level anxiety in the back of my mind – a fear that my teammates might find out I was gay, a worry that I somehow didn’t belong. “I could finally just focus on competing, and the difference was palpable. I felt excited to win, confident that I belonged out there on the mat – more so than I had in a long time, perhaps since I had been a teenager. “I think that speaks to the power of honesty and acceptance. Cultivating a more diverse, accepting, inclusive environment for athletes isn’t just the nice or the right thing to do – although I definitely think it’s the right thing to do. “It’s also the best thing for performance. When athletes feel celebrated for who they are, they can show up fully as themselves – and deliver their very best performances.”
~ INCLUSION IN SPORT SERIES: LGBTQ+ ~ How a Glebe Collegiate graduate navigated sports while coming out as trans By Kieran Heffernan Daxton Rhead was a successful cross-country runner at OFSAA during his Grade 9 year, placing 5th individually and 2nd with the Glebe Collegiate midget girls team. At the end of that school year, he came out as transgender. He had realized he was a boy earlier than this, but didn’t come out right away. “Honestly, part of that was because of sports. Not all of it. But part of it was,” he said. He thought to himself, ‘How is this going to affect things? Am I going to be able to continue to play the sports I love?’” Rhead also played in the Ottawa East Minor Hockey Association boys house league for his whole childhood, and played competitive girls box lacrosse for some time as well. Sports were incredibly important to him. “It was my outlet. I would go for a run to clear my head. I ran a lot, and it was my coping mechanism. It was the way I dealt with difficult emotions and feelings and stuff. So, in fact, when I figured out I was trans, I went for a run right away.” Being trans didn’t end up being too much of a problem, at least in terms of still being able to participate in sport. With hockey, Rhead’s parents just emailed one of the coaches and got his name and gender marker changed. “A lot of the time I have my parents come out for me, because like, I’m dealing with enough other stuff,” he laughed.
Daxton Rhead running cross-country as a member of the Glebe Gryphons.
It helped that he was playing with guys he’d known for years, although it was still a bit strange, as it often is whenever he comes out to new people. “It’s just awkward and uncomfortable, and feels sometimes unnecessarily personal. But at the same time, if I don’t tell people I’m trans, then people maybe don’t realize that
Sport is key to our community’s health. It brings us together. It provides a place to learn and grow. It keeps us engaged.
EVERYONE should be able to experience sport. Proud to serve as Ottawa Sport Commissioner. I am here to help. MATHIEUFLEURY.CA | 613 580-2482 @MATHIEUFLEURY | MATHIEU.FLEURY@OTTAWA.CA
they know someone who’s trans or that trans people exist and are around and are doing things in your community,” he said. He did stop playing lacrosse, since he had been playing on the girls team and wasn’t sure that it would be an accepting environment. But coming out at school was a similar process to hockey. “It wasn’t too big of a deal, which was really nice, because I was kind of expecting that it might be,” Rhead said. The OCDSB allows students to change their name and gender marker in the school’s database without having to change them legally. Rhead was able to do this, albeit with a few administrative hiccups. “I do remember that my name was wrong on the list of what first class to go to, but the teacher that was in the class knew me, knew I was trans, so it wasn’t said out loud in the class. But it was a very stressful start to a very stressful day.” Changing from the girls division to the boys was not a problem either, although it was a little hard knowing he wasn’t going to place as well as he had the year before. “But I guess it got to a point where it’s like, I can’t hide this anymore, and even if it feels good to do well, that good feeling is not at all
equivalent to the feeling of actually being who you are,” he said. “(Competing in the girls division) was fun, because I love to run, but it was also painful because I knew that this was the wrong decision. The idea that people were perceiving me as a girl really hurt.” Rhead placed 82nd at the NCSSAA championships in Grade 10, but injuries prevented him from continuing to run. He instead volunteered with the team at Glebe. More recently, he’d just gotten back into hockey before the start of the pandemic, playing a few games in an pickup league specifically for LGBTQ+ players. Although Rhead has had almost entirely positive experiences being a trans athlete, he knows this isn’t the case for many others. He also knows the impact sport can have. “I think it’s really too bad when people who are LGBTQ don’t play sports or stop playing their sports because they aren’t accepted, or are afraid they won’t be accepted,” he said. “Obviously, inclusion in all aspects of life is important, but because sports can be such an outlet and such a positive experience for people, I think that’s something that everyone should get to experience.”
SIFTON: ‘They didn’t care when... we weren’t winning.’ continued from page 4 People only start to take issue with trans women athletes when they do well, such as with two-time world cycling champion Rachel McKinnon, Sifton said. “They didn’t care when we were racing and we weren’t winning, but as soon as a trans woman won something, people started caring more and there was more pushback.” Sifton has experienced something similar herself. When she won the Houston Grand Crit in May 2019, she faced backlash online and had her personal information posted. Knowing that whenever she does well, she’ll be met with criticism can take a mental toll. “There’s that little bit nagging thing in the back of your mind that’s like, do you want to deal with this? Do you want to deal with the shit that’s going to get on the internet if you get on the podium again?” she said. “But then you have to remember, no, I will put up with that hassle so that I can have that photo of me on any step of a podium, and hopefully show some future trans athlete that yeah, trans people can be on the podium and trans people can race.” Sifton has been very open about her experiences and identity. She’s guest lectured at Algonquin College, and spoken at a high school and to a Girl Guides troop. Plus, she races on rainbow wheels. She knows first-hand the impact that having visible role models can have. “When I first came out, I had those stories to look up to. Chris Mosier is one of my biggest influences in my life because he was the only out trans athlete competing at a high level at the time when I came out.” “I’ve met a lot of kids who have told me that they’re in similar situations to what I was several years ago,” she added. “I’ve had people come
photo: michael bowley up to me at races and say I didn’t think I would ever get back into racing after I transitioned, but I think I’m going to start racing again.” Compared to when she first started cycling, she does think people have become more understanding and accepting overall. And as a result, it seems like more trans people are participating in sport. “Those athletes who would have been scared to ever return to competition, or didn’t think it was safe to, or didn’t think it was allowed, those athletes can now feel safe and comfortable, and I think that’s a good sign of progress,” she said. One thing Sifton makes a point of talking about is the strict rules that trans women must follow in order to compete, as set out by the International Olympic Committee. “I’m regularly tested for my hormone levels for racing. I’m probably the most drug tested athlete I know because of my hormone testing,” she said. “People don’t understand that. People are just like oh, they can just show up and win.” “We follow an incredibly strict rule set that was approved by top sports scientists and doctors. So, the framework is there to make it fair.”
~ INCLUSION IN SPORT SERIES: LGBTQ+ ~ ~ INCLUSION IN SPORT: RACE ~
Seyi Smith’s latest sporting endeavour sees him running in the leadership lane By Stuart Miller-Davis Seyi Smith has never been one to back away from a challenge. Originally from Nigeria, Smith was shy of 10 years old when he moved to Ottawa. It was while attending the south-end Fielding Drive Public School that he introduced to the Ottawa Lions by a teacher. From there, Smith said he had all he needed to reach the highest level in the first sport to take him to the Olympic Games. “I was fortunate enough to have a supporting family and a supporting club like the Lions that gave me everything I needed to excel, from good coaching, to access to competitions in Canada and outside of Canada as well,” Smith said. “I would say the environment was really conducive to me doing a good job in my sport and eventually becoming an Olympian.” His first Olympics was London 2012, where he ran as a member of Canada’s 4x100m relay team. In the finals for the event, the Canadian team placed 3rd behind Usain Bolt’s Jamaican team and the Americans, but Canada was disqualified within minutes of finishing because of a lane violation. Six years later Smith would have a chance at redemption. He’d follow in the footsteps of fellow Ottawa-implant Glenroy Gilbert by returning to the winter variation of the Games in a bobsled.
photo: dan plouffe
For Smith, the transition from sprinting to sledding was an easy one.
However, he once again left the Olympics without a medal, finishing in 6th place as a part of Canada’s four-man bobsled team. Now, with future Olympic Games on-ice for at least the time-being, Smith’s career in sports has evolved into a third iteration: one of leadership. He’s currently the chair of the Canadian Olympic Commission’s (COC) Athletes’ Commission. The purpose of the commission is to represent Canada’s Olympians to the COC. Having been a part of the Athletes’ Commission in lesser roles before his election to chair in 2018, Smith talked about one bringing an understanding perspective to the role. “It’s taught me of the sacrifices and the time coaches make and the medical staff and the administrators who run organizations,” Smith said. “It taught me how the COC as an organization is pretty unique in Canada just by the brilliance of the people who lead it.” Having been chosen for the chairman role, Smith is bucking a trend in Canada of few people of colour filling top jobs for Canadian sports organizations. Recognizing these disparities is a good first step, Smith said. “People say diversity is a strength when it comes to how you run an organization,” said Smith, who added that he likes to ap-
proach issues of discrimination in sports by giving people the benefit of the doubt. “When we talk about institutionalized racism and athletes combatting narrow sports organizations – whatever situation we’re in – we have to start off by (believing) everybody’s doing the best they can,” he said. “And to hear people out: That often gets you to a fair and balanced solution.”
Smith is head of the body that speaks for Canada’s Olympians.
~ INCLUSION IN SPORT: RACE ~
OSU Force Academy Zone
OSU coaching pushes the pack ahead
Ottawa South United Soccer Club has gained a reputation in town and well beyond as a hotbed for soccer player development, and it’s now becoming ever more recognized as a destination to cultivate coaching talent as well. A foundational ingredient to that recipe is the long-standing leadership group at OSU. That’s ensured continuity and growth in the club’s coach development strategies, and an ongoing commitment to create more paid coaching positions. OSU now employs six full-time coaches, it has many more paid staff within the 48 coaches who lead Force Academy teams and skill development programs, including positional specialists, sports performance and video coaches. “It’s important to have the right staff who are professional and do it the right way, and can move the players forward,” signals OSU’s Club Head Coach of 9 years, Paul Harris. “Along with the increasing professionalization of the coaching world, you’re seeing a lot of greater opportunities for players.” Young Canadian stars – like Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies, Ottawa’s Jonathan David (Lille, France) and OSU product Kris Twardek (Jagiellonia, Poland) – are providing plenty of inspiration for budding youth players nowadays. “I remember when I first got to Canada, there was there was no real belief that you could make a living out of football,” notes Harris, a former Everton FC Academy coach. “I think now we’re starting to see that change, and I also think this is only the start.” OSU consistently produces players for the university, national team and professional ranks, and many Force coaches are spreading their wings too. Some have gone on to work in English professional academies, become technical directors for other Ontario clubs, or have joined one of the top clubs in the FA Women’s Super League (in the case of Everton assistant Claire Ditchburn). “A lot of them have gone on and done better for themselves, which is really great to see,” highlights Harris. Many more have increased their certifications; OSU includes numerous National/UEFA A and B-licenced coaches, and others with Children & Youth specializations. OSU offers apprenticeship programs for youth coaches and assistants, and is proud that roughly a third of its staff are “homegrown coaches” – past OSU players who are now guiding the next generation. That includes many who helped transform Ottawa soccer into a true force on the provincial stage during their playing days with OSU. Among them are Danny Assaf, Kyle DeSousa, Nick DiBerardino, Ali Jabara, Ian Kerr, Jorge Olmos, Anthony Sartzetakis, Elli Traboulsi and Shane Williams – all members of OSU teams born between 1997 and 2002 who collected a pile of Ontario League and Cup titles. “That generation contributed so much on the field,” Harris signals. “To see them now rising through our coaching ranks, it really speaks volumes about our community and our ‘OSU family.’” Harris also takes pride in seeing the rise of Ottawa soccer as a whole. Prior to OSU’s first triumph in 2013, no Eastern Ontario team had won a provincial youth championship. Now, other local clubs acknowledge that OSU pushed them to greater heights. “They’ll tell us that when OSU started to do well at the provincial level, it kind of challenged them all to be better,” Harris explains. “The growth in coaching and the success of Ottawa clubs at the provincial level is really astronomical. A lot of the clubs have really improved, and we should all be proud that we’ve put Ottawa on the map.”
OSU coach wants to make a difference through policing By Kieran Heffernan Abe Osman is finally getting to fulfil a dream he’s had to put on hold for almost two decades. The former Ottawa Wizards captain has, as a coach, brought the Ottawa South United unprecedented success that has included multiple OPDL championships. But before beginning his professional soccer career, he studied police foundations at Algonquin College. Nearly two decades after he graduated in 2001, Osman had his first day of training with the Ottawa police on Nov. 26. It was a day he’d been waiting a long time for. “Long dream, kind of in the background, and as it got later in life, I thought you know what, another way to contribute and help the community was by doing it on a bigger scale with the Ottawa police,” he said. He applied for the job last December, a couple months after Peter Sloly had been sworn in as Ottawa’s new police chief. “I liked his message about trying to bring the service more in line with working with the community to accomplish things, and make things better for both
Abe Osman the community and the service,” he explained. Osman said it feels “amazing” to have the chance to impact his community in ways other than through coaching, especially as a Black man. “It’s a chance to work with different kids from different backgrounds and show them that you’re able to do not just coaching, but you’re able to join a prestigious organization and show them they’re capable as a minority,” he said. “You can be a Black police officer and have success as well.” Diversity in sports leadership and coaching as well has been a much-discussed topic recently, and Osman said he thinks one of the ways to make sure more minorities are in these positions is to improve outreach
into their communities. “They can do a better job of going into the different neighborhoods and talking to the coaches that are doing coaching on a smaller scale, for opportunities to work with more vast opportunities, vast clubs,” he said. In his pro days, he said he occasionally faced discrimination while playing overseas, often from fans of opposing teams. As a player and coach in Canada people have been respectful and welcoming, Osman said. In his new role as a police officer though, he knows he may have a bigger challenge ahead of him. “I want to show that police is teamwork,” he said. “Police is about community engagement, police is about
working with each other, not through enforcement, but through communication and trying to bridge gaps that exist.” “In the times we live in right now where police are not seen in a bright light, I would like to show that this is what the police service is; this is what it offers; this is what kind of impact it can have on the community.” Osman said he believes his coaching experience has given him skills that will carry over into his new position. “I think that was one of the reasons I got hired on. Been so long working with young minds, shaping young minds, teaching them about not just the sport, but teaching them about life, about working hard, about working as a team, dealing with challenges. Not just in sport but in everyday life, dealing with juggling schedules or competition at a high level, the stresses of that.” Being a police officer also doesn’t mean he’ll be giving up coaching anytime soon. “The police have encouraged it. They said don’t stop what you’re doing. It’s a big reason why you got in, and there’s always room for it,” he said.
Glenroy Gilbert is happy the world is being brought up to speed By Stuart Miller-Davis Olympic champion Glenroy Gilbert is glad to see the world confront a reckoning over racism and discrimination. The 1996 Olympic 4x100-metre relay gold medallist, who is now Athletics Canada’s head coach, remembers feeling “awful” when he faced racism while training at Louisiana State University in the ‘90s. “We were told there are certain areas that you cannot go, and that’s simply because of the colour of your skin,” said Gilbert, who was born in Trinidad and came to Canada at age 5. “I understood that we have a lot of work to do (to combat racism), but for me, it was just head down and do what it is I went down there to do. I was at school, and then I was training for the Olympic Games, and I just kept the focus very small.” The former Ottawa Lions athlete
and coach is proud of athletes who recognize that nowadays they can use their position to make a difference. “Athletes have got a huge platform,” noted the multiple Ottawa Sports Awards coach of the year winner. “You’re seeing it in the NBA, in the NFL, everywhere athletes are speaking out and doing things to illustrate the plight they find themselves in, but it’s
not just the athletes, it’s for humanity as a whole.” Gilbert’s No. 1 sport of track-andfield features a diverse range of competitors, but it was quite different when he attended the 1994 Winter Olympics as a bobsledder. To improve more diversity in winter sports, Gilbert believes that cold-weather nations should open up their training facilities and encourage countries without a similar climate to take it up. “I think the collaboration is important, because what it does is it also sheds light on diversity in your population, in your cultures, and it exposes the country to one another,” he said. “Anything where you can get people working together to better understand each other is never a bad thing.” For Gilbert, who is now 52 years old, he’s realized that progress can be slow, so he focusses his own energy on being “an example to anybody and everybody, regardless of race.”
~ UNIVERSITIES/CLUBS ~
COVID wipes out Ravens’ 2020 home soccer nationals
The Rebelles Wrap • La Rubrique Rebelle Sports carry on safely within Louis-Riel’s Sports-Study program
After 3rd and 4th-place finishes nationally, this was supposed to be the year the Carleton Ravens men’s soccer team took a crack at winning a Canadian university crown on their home pitch. COVID of course cancelled the competition, but the lineup powered primarily by players from Ottawa is keen to shoot for the top again next year. See OttawaSportsPages.ca for the full story.
Evolving pandemic protocols test sustainability of community sports organizations By Kieran Heffernan As pandemic restrictions and government funding programs continue to evolve, Ottawa community sports organizations are rushing to keep up. For the Ottawa Shooting Stars Basketball Club, the main challenge has been with rental facilities. Usually, 95 per cent of its programs are run out of school gymnasiums. Schools typically offer cheap rates, but they haven’t been open for rent since the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed Canada in March. The club has had to resort to renting private courts, which comes with a steep cost. “On average, our school gym times cost between $15 an hour to $20 an hour,” noted Shooting Stars president Derek Firth. And now for private facilities, we’re paying “between $75-$110 an hour.” In light of this, the club has had to more than double the cost of its programs. “So what (athletes are) getting for twice the price this year is not even close to the amount of gym time and training and games that we would have under normal conditions,” Firth said. Of course, the cost increase of participating is also a significant barrier for many athletes who may have already struggled to afford competitive sports programs. “We have a policy that we’ll never turn a kid away because lack of finances,” Firth said. This has continued even through the pandemic. “Our club has essentially been subsidizing (players who aren’t able to afford the programming), so we’re taking a big financial hit to operate this year, and we’re operating our programming at a loss.” Firth said the only way he sees the current situation changing is if schools open up gym permits, but even if that were the case, challenges remain for clubs, like the Shooting Stars, that rely on renting gym space. “Even before the pandemic, accessibility to facilities for indoor sports, especially
for basketball in Ottawa, has been a major issue that we’ve been trying to address.” Sports clubs that own facilities have faced their own difficulties as well. TRYumph Gymnastics, which is located in Gloucester, has struggled dealing with rapidly fluctuating building capacity limits in its attempt to stay open. “Initially (the provincial government) said no recreational gymnastics – just completely arbitrary. Then they come back and limit to 10 (people in a room). And then the next week, they say, okay, you can put a barrier down the middle. It’s constantly evolving,” said Paul ApSimon, the club’s co-founder. TRYumph’s nearly 10,000 square foot main room could certainly accommodate more than 10 people who are physical distancing, but in order to abide by government regulations, they’ve installed a shower curtain-like vapour barrier. It divides the gym in half, allowing for double the number of people to be in the space. TRYumph has also extended its hours to accommodate more athletes. Still, it’s only hosting about 30 per cent of the gymnasts it normally does, going from having about 470 active members to about 130. Another challenge has been navigating government assistance programs. “It’s very confusing. It’s very hard to keep up with the various programs,” ApSimon said. “Of course, we love the support, we would never have survived without it.” Tthere’s a lot on the line for the club. When it opened in 2018, co-founder Alina Florea guaranteed its lease using her own house. ApSimon said he believes that with the government’s support, TRYumph will survive. Still, the situation has been emotional. “For me, I’m a school teacher, I coach the Canadian fencing team, I’ve got other things going on,” ApSimon said. “This is just one of my projects, but for Alina, TRYumph is her life. She really feels the emotional roller coaster of the pandemic.”
With its popular 15-year-old SportsStudy program, Louis-Riel high school has long been a leader in combining physical activity into the school setting, so when COVID-19 struck, it was time to innovate once again. “We’ve been using all the tools around us to make sure that everyone is safe and everyone is active,” highlights Louis-Riel Sports-Study program coordinator Ken Levesque, noting the school’s Grade 7-8 students continue to have daily phys ed classes. Health experts have emphasized the importance of youngsters staying active during difficult times, in order to maintain optimal physical health and – more importantly – mental health. “The students do have to spend a lot of their day in the same classroom, so going to the Dome or the gym to expend an hour of energy is very important to us,” he adds. Of course, gym class doesn’t quite look the same during COVID times. There are no contact sports, activities are modified to maintain physical distancing, and there is a greater emphasis on conditioning, with agility and quickness circuits. “We’re trying to make it as fun as we can with all the restrictions,” Levesque notes. “They’re still moving around and exercising – that’s what counts.” The school follows all guidelines set by public health agencies, and goes farther in many cases. Students must keep their distance and wear a mask at all
times during indoor exercise, while staff wear visors and clean equipment after use. With a full-size soccer field, volleyball/basketball courts, a weightroom and 400-metre track, the giant Dome LR has proven especially valuable to maintain phys ed programming. The Dome is currently only open for the school’s use, which substantially minimizes risk, as only students use it under the watch of teachers employing strict protocols. “The number one thing for us right now is to keep our students and our staff members healthy,” Levesque indicates. “It’s hard for the community clubs and everyone that would normally use the facility, but our student body is our priority.” Accustomed to supporting athletes when they’re away at competitions or training camps during normal times, Louis-Riel found itself well-positioned to help students learn at home (Grade 9-12 students attend school in-person every second day). The end result is that Louis-Riel student-athletes haven’t been hit quite as hard as elsewhere when it comes to staying in shape and succeeding in their studies. “We try to make it as normal as possible. There are restrictions of course, but we’re really working as hard as we can to offer our students those great opportunities,” Levesque says. “Our staff have been putting in extra time to get organized, to do cleaning, and to change their way of teaching, to make sure our activities are safe. “It’s been amazing to see everyone pull together, and be creative, and adapt. I’ll say it again, our staff is definitely one of the best out there – #1, I’d say.”
Les sports continuent en sécurité dans le programme Sports-Études
Avec son programme SportsÉtudes renommé, l’école secondaire publique Louis-Riel est devenu un leader dans l’intégration de l’activité physique au milieu scolaire, alors, lorsque la COVID-19 a frappé, c’est encore le temps d’innover. « On se sert de tous les outils autour de nous pour s’assurer que tout le monde reste sain et sauf et demeure actif », note Ken Levesque, le coordonnateur du programme Sports-Études. Les experts de la santé indiquent l’importance pour les jeunes de demeurer actif lors de ces temps difficiles, afin de garder une santé physique et – encore plus importante – une santé mentale optimale. À Louis-Riel, les élèves en 7e et 8e années continuent de participer à des cours d’éducation physique chaque jour. « Les élèves doivent passer une bonne partie de la journée dans la même salle de classe, alors c’est bien important pour nous qu’ils puissent visiter le Dôme ou le gymnase pour dépenser un peu d’énergie », rajoute M. Levesque. Bien sûr, l’éducation physique est différente aujourd’hui. Il n’y a pas de sports de contacts, les activités sont modifiées pour respecter la distanciation physique, et il y a un accent sur le conditionnement physique, avec des circuits d’agilité
et vitesse. « On essaie de rendre ça le plus amusant possible avec toutes les restrictions, » explique M. Levesque. « Ils bougent encore et ils s’entraînent – c’est ce qui compte ». L’école suit toutes les directives des autorités de santé publique, et les surpassent souvent. Les élèves doivent porter leurs masques et maintenir leur distance en tout temps lors de l’exercice à l’intérieur, et les membres du personnel portent leurs visières et nettoient tout l’équipement après usage. Avec un terrain de soccer de pleine grandeur, des planchers de basket et volley, un centre de musculation, et une piste d’athlétisme de 400 mètres, l’immense Dôme LR s’est montré indispensable pour continuer d’offrir des cours d’éducation physique. Présentement, le Dôme est utilisé uniquement par l’école, minimisant le risque d’infection, avec des élèves qui suivent des précautions rigides, avec la surveillance des enseignants. « La chose la plus importante pour nous en ce moment c’est de garder nos élèves et notre personnel en bonne santé », indique M. Levesque. « C’est difficile pour les clubs sportifs de la communauté et tout le monde qui utilise normalement l’installation, mais notre
corps étudiant est notre priorité ». Habitué à soutenir les athlètes lorsqu’ils participent à des compétitions ou des camps d’entraînements hors-ville, LouisRiel s’est trouvé bien outillé pour aider les élèves à apprendre chez eux (les élèves de 9e-12e année sont à l’école le demi des journées scolaires). Le produit final, c’est des élèvesathlètes qui n’ont pas été aussi durement touchés qu’ailleurs – ils peuvent toujours rester en forme et réussir dans leurs études. « On essaie de garder tout à la normale autant que l’on peut le faire. Il y a des contraintes bien sûr, mais on travaille vraiment le plus fort possible pour offrir ces expériences exceptionnelles à nos élèves », dit M. Levesque. « Notre personnel a fait beaucoup d’heures supplémentaires pour s’organiser, pour nettoyer, et pour changer leurs méthodes d’instruction, pour s’assurer que nos activités soient sécuritaires. » « C’est vraiment formidable de voir tout le monde se rassembler, d’être créatifs, et s’adapter. Je le dirai mille fois, notre personnel est parmi les meilleurs sans aucun doute – #1, selon moi ».
~ JUNIOR LEAGUES ~
Local junior hockey players attempt to salvage playing futures while not playing By Stuart Miller-Davis While the pandemic has brought on challenges for people in all walks of life, it’s created potential career-altering obstacles for hockey prospects – and those in the nation’s capital have been no exception. Public health guidelines forced the closure of hockey arenas late last season. Gyms have been periodically shuttered too, forcing players to find off-season training alternatives. Modified or even nullified seasons are now making it hard for scouts to judge prospects, and the unpredictable status of when Canada’s borders might open are making players think twice about a playing career in the U.S. or elsewhere. The Ottawa Sports Pages spoke to three Ottawa-area players who are navigating the uncertainty as they try to push their game to the next level.
ETHAN MULHEARN Mulhearn joined the Ott-
awa Jr. Senators via trade in August of 2019. During his first season in Ottawa, the 20-year-old Williamstown, Ont.-native set career highs in goals (21), assists (21) and points. Mulhearn said that ever since he entered the CCHL with the Cornwall Colts as a 16-year-old, he viewed it as an opportunity. “My goal was then to play junior hockey here and use that to further myself,” he said.
photo: robert lefebvre
His goal remains to continue playing hockey while completing a post-secondary education, but the pandemic has challenged his first choice of playing in the NCAA. So far, he has been unable to visit any prospective universities because of the restrictions in place. “You really can’t go down there, and you can’t get a feel for the university and the coaches that run the program on the phone and in text messages.”
In terms of working out in the summer, Mulhearn said he didn’t face a problem when gyms were closed because of his own at-home set up in Nepean where he lives with family. Over the summer, his problem was getting on the ice. He didn’t skate at all from March, when the CCHL postponed its playoffs, until July, when Jr. Sens head coach Martin Dagenais contacted him to let him know he had some rink-time available.
“It was probably the longest stint I have gone in the last few years to not be on the ice,” he said. “Up till that point it was a lot of rollerblading outside.” The CCHL usually starts its regular season in September, but it’s been delayed due to the pandemic.
RYAN PARK Park moved to Ottawa to join the Kanata Lasers (CCHL) at the start of the 2018-19 season. Originally
from Oakville, Ont., Park is now a member of the Navan Grads. For him, the lack of on-ice action has been a challenge, but so has how the limited games are being played. The CCHL has allowed exhibition games between teams that are bubbled in pairs. Under its return-toplay rules, the exhibitions are limited to non-contact scrimmages. “We’re not allowed to play contact and for everybody it’s a big adjustment because we’re so used to playing contact,” Park said. “It’s definitely changed the way I play. I think for the schools watching it’s tough for them to get a read on players when there’s no contact and then expect them to go to school with contact.” Like Mulhearn, Park came to the CCHL looking to further his game south of the border in the NCAA, but the pandemic has made him question whether that’s still an option.
HOCKEY cont’s on p.11
~ ELITE ~
Olympic speed skater Blondin heads to Europe to train/race, Weidemann stays home By Martin Cleary There will be an international long-track speed skating season after all. But it will be short – inside 24 days, there will be two World Cups and the 2021 world single-distance championships – in a bubble environment in Heerenveen, The Netherlands. Speed Skating Canada has allowed national team athletes to decide whether they want to race or not during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann, a pair of Ottawa athletes based in Calgary, are going in opposite directions. Blondin, the defending world mass-start champ, is hungry for consistent oval training time and will participate in Heerenveen as a prep for the 2022 Olympics. She left Monday with husband/Hungarian skater Konrad Nagy for Budapest, where she will start training before moving to Inzell, Germany. They married Dec. 3. Weidemann, who ranked second in World Cup distance races
Isabelle Weidemann (right) leads Ivanie Blondin in team pursuit competition. file photo
(3,000/5,000 metres) in 201920, is staying in Canada and extending her training period heading into the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. Like Blondin, Weidemann hasn’t been able to train on the Calgary Olympic oval since it shut down in early September because of a
HOCKEY: Showcasing to U.S. audience proves difficult continued from p.10 “There’s a lot more to take into consideration with COVID and the U.S. having such high case numbers,” he said. “I have definitely put some thought into Canadian schools because with everything going on, I don’t want to go down there and have my season cancelled or something like that.” Park, who lives in Nepean, said that when rinks closed his training turned to a lot of cardio, including running outside in the snow. He said luckily he had some weights around the house to do some strength training as well.
ABBEY McMILLAN In March, when the pandemic cancelled the provincial championships and try-outs for the next season, the Nepean Wildcats’ McMillan, 17, was thrust into a stressful situation. “I wasn’t sure if I just played my last
game or something because we didn’t know what the impact would be,” she said. The Glebe Collegiate senior, who is taking classes online this year, wants to play hockey at a Canadian university next year. But for her, the path to achieving that goal looks murky. In lieu of spring tryouts, the Wildcats selected players this season based on their play last year. McMillan retained a roster spot. The Ottawa District Women’s Hockey Association (ODWHA) season would typically be in full swing by December, but it has not started yet. In a press release on its website in July, the ODWHA said it will not be releasing any return-to-play policies until further direction from the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association. “At this point we would’ve been to a bunch of tournaments like show-
cases where there would be scouts and people watching you,” she said. Having not secured a commitment from any university program to this point, she said she may explore walk-on opportunities or try-outs wherever she decides to go to school. At the moment, McMillan said she’s just glad she’s able to play hockey. The Wildcats recently started scrimmaging after bubbling-up with the Ottawa Lady 67’s. The teams have split into smaller groups to play four-on-four games once a week. Her team also practises four times a week. “I’m just really grateful that we even had a chance to play hockey this year,” she said. “I’m lucky that Ottawa has reopened for hockey a bit and we’re able to play games, because I know that many places are not playing games at all.”
mechanical issue. Parts have been ordered for a possible January repair. Training has been a mix of activities for two of the world’s best skaters – riding training or traditional bikes, lifting weights, doing in-line and short-track skating. They had a two-week on-ice camp in Fort St. John, B.C. and trained on outdoor ice in Red Deer on Saturday. “I don’t think I’ll race this season,” Weidemann said in a phone interview last week. “I’m trying to prepare my body for next summer’s training and ultimately the Olympic year. I’m trying to get a base (of training) to prevent injuries. “(Speed Skating Canada) has
let the athletes decide (about going to Heerenveen). It’s a personal decision, if you feel comfortable to go or stay home. I think that’s awesome that they would let us decide. “My individual decision now is no. I fully support athletes who are going, but for me and my mental health, I don’t want to be in stringent quarantine.” The 25-year-old is concerned about catching the COVID-19 virus and more quarantine time when she comes home. Weidemann fully supports Blondin heading to Europe for racing in the pre-Olympic year. Blondin and Weidemann form two-thirds of Canada’s No. 2-ranked team pursuit
squad. Blondin was third in 201920 World Cup 3,000/5,000-metre rankings. “She’s a total competitor. She’s a trained-to-compete person. She needs that to jump start her season and keep her motivation,” added Weidemann, who focuses on dayto-day technical skating and physical goals. Weidemann also has decided to take a few more university courses to work her way towards her bachelor’s degree in geology (seven courses left). “I’m not thinking too much about competing or feeling ready to compete,” she said. Perhaps the best part of the past nine months, when COVID-19 hit full force, was having a national-team training camp on the 400-metre indoor oval track in Fort St. John, which is in the Peace River district of north-eastern British Columbia. “The whole team was in a bubble and we went back and forth between the hotel and the oval,” the Gloucester Concordes product said. “They have a 400-metre oval and it’s totally awesome. I wish Ottawa had one. They did it right.” During the 2019-20 World Cup season, Weidemann won the opening 3,000 metres in Belarus and the circuit final, while also posting thirds in a 3,000- and 5,000-metre races. In team pursuit, she helped Canada to one first-, one second-, and one third-place showings.
~ EDITORIAL ~
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firstname.lastname@example.org The Ottawa Sports Pages 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
47-year vet Martin Cleary joins Ottawa Sports Pages, alongside launch of new website/newsletter The Ottawa Sports Pages recently announced the biggest free agent signing in the organization’s nearly 10-year history, with veteran local amateur sportswriter Martin Cleary joining the team. Cleary’s stories will now appear five days a week on OttawaSportsPages.ca (formerly SportsOttawa.com). The addition of the 47-year local sports beat writer also coincides with the launch of the Saturday Sports Pages, a new bi-weekly email newsletter. “No doubt this is easily one of the proudest days in our history,” says Ottawa Sports Pages founder Dan Plouffe. “It’s been a pretty dark time for most everyone lately – the sports and media industries certainly included – but this is really great news for community journalism, and grassroots sport. We’re very excited for the future.” Cleary is a past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree. He’s covered six Olympic Games, several world championships, and hundreds of local, provincial and national championships in roughly 60 sports. Cleary retired from fulltime work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write his bi-weekly High Achievers
column for the Citizen/Sun. “When my column was put on a pandemic pause, I felt the need to continue to write about the Ottawa amateur sports scene,” Cleary shares. “There were a lot of positive stories out there that I felt I needed to tell, so I started to write one story a day on my Twitter account (@martincleary). “With the HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition, I wanted to send out a health message along with some uplifting sports news.” High Achievers will now also have a home in the newspaper and at OttawaSportsPages.ca, for the pandemic at least. “We’ll be thrilled and honoured to have Martin’s work in the Ottawa Sports Pages for as long as we can, but we know it’s in the local sports community’s best interests to have its news reach the largest possible audience too,” signals Plouffe. “I think what’s most important is to salute Martin’s tremendous commitment to our city’s amateur sports scene for so many years, and on an ongoing basis. His dedication is just unreal, he’s truly one-of-a-kind.”
REVAMPED WEBSITE & E-NEWSLETTER DEBUT Visitors to the OttawaSportsPages.ca
Martin Cleary received the Ottawa Sports Awards’ Lifetime Sport Media Achievement Award in 2007. site will now find daily updates with High Achievers, alongside additional reporting by Ottawa Sports Pages contributors. The new site is more mobileresponsive, and gives an improved online presence for the advertising partners who make it possible to deliver the news. The Saturday Sports Pages offer another avenue to stay connected to all the latest local sports news and information. The e-mail newsletter will often delve into a particular subject in greater depth, while also summarizing key stories that appear on OttawaSportsPages.ca. Through the new “Community Queries” feature, the newsletter will provide reader
YMCA-YWCA OF THE NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION STARS OF THE MONTH
Team of the Month: Ottawa Lions cross-country team 1st place finishers (from left to right): Liz Maguire (masters female), Jocelyn Giannotti (U16 female), Ivy Bialowas (U18 female), Pippa Norman (U20 female), Michael Day (masters male), Robert Mitchell (senior male). 1st place finisher (not pictured): Dominique Church (U12 male).
engagement opportunities, with the chance to ask questions for our reporting team to investigate. The Saturday Sports Pages is delivered by email every second weekend (the first edition was Dec. 5). While it’s a refreshed brand (SportsOttawa.com now redirects to OttawaSportsPages.ca), the same not-for-profit organization remains in control, shining a light on local amateur sport is still the objective, and the Ottawa Sports Pages newspaper will continue to be printed. “These digital projects were in the works before the pandemic, but we definitely wanted our audience to have these new tools available before the dead of winter,” notes Ottawa Sports Pages Editor Charlie Pinkerton. “It’s actually been super uplifting to see our readers’ dedication to go get a copy of the newspaper from our boxes lately, when they’re probably not out and about as much. “We’ve had record visits to our website too, so that definitely shows there’s a strong appetite for news and updates on our local athletes and clubs, even when sports are largely shut down. “That’s really fuelled our team to keep working hard and to continue serving our community.”
Athlete of the Month: Rory van Ulft
About: Rory van Ulft, 7, claimed the unique title this month as the youngest-ever USA Weightlifting youth national champion. Van Ulft competed at the event virtually from her Ottawa gym, 613 LIFT. Her championship result was largely due to her 72kg clean-and-jerk, which was enough to be crowned champion in two women’s 30kg categories: the 11U and 13U divisions. This year was van Ulft’s second appearance at the U.S. youth championships. She placed 8th overall last year as the youngest-ever competitor.
About: There were 48 members of the Ottawa Lions who competed in November at the Eastern Ontario Cross Country Championships, where Capital Region runners took home the gold medal in seven of the event’s 15 total races. The races took place on Nov. 15 and were hosted in the township of Delta, Ont. Regional events were held in place of the provincial championships because of the COVID-19 pandemic. E-mail email@example.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.
~ OTTAWA SPORTS PAGES SNAPSHOTS ~ RAHNEVA TAKES BREAK FROM TRAINING TO RECOVER FROM INJURY Mimi Rahneva announced on Instagram that she will be taking a break from skeleton due to back problems. “Sitting out this year due to injury. A disk herniation at the C5-C6 vertebrae has pinched a nerve root,” Rahneva wrote in the post. Rahneva, grew up in Ottawa after moving here from Bulgaria when she was 10 years old, has been a member of Team Canada since 2013. She finished in 12th at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and 2nd at the world championships in 2019.
MIKE WOODS SUCCESSFUL IN INJURY COMEBACK Cyclist Michael Woods won the 7th stage of the Vuelta a España at the end of October. His win came seven months after breaking his femur at Paris-Nice, just as the world was beginning to enter lockdowns. He also finished 2nd in the 6th stage of the Vuelta. After a slow start upon his return to racing in the summer, and a surprising omission from EF Pro Cycling’s Tour de France team, Woods proved he was back in racing form by winning a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico in September. Woods will be racing for Israel Start-Up Nation starting in 2021.
LOCAL SKATERS COMPETE AT SKATE ONTARIO SECTIONALS Three Gloucester Skating Club athletes competed the 2021 Skate Ontario Sectional Championships. Hayley McGuire came 8th in the junior women’s division, Joshua Dore came 11th amongst junior men, and Emmanuelle Proft came 11th amongst the senior women. This year’s event took place virtually, with competitors submitting videos of their performances at their home clubs.
WIEBE COMPETES AT WORLD CUP IN SERBIA 2016 Olympic wrestling champion Erica Wiebe is competing at the World Cup in Belgrade along with fellow Canadian Amar Dhesi. The Dec. 12-18 tournament was originally going to be the world championships, but was downgraded to a World Cup because some countries couldn’t or were unwilling to attend. Some other Canadian athletes have opted not to compete as well. Wiebe lost a semifinal matchup against 2017 world champion Yasemin Adar by a score of 2-1 and will compete in the bronze medal match on Dec. 16.
OTTAWA FRONTIER LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAM NAMED Ottawa’s Frontier League baseball team will be named the Ottawa Titans following a naming contest, the team announced at the end of November. Their colour scheme will be red, white and black to match other Ottawa sports teams like the Senators and the Redblacks. The Titans are expected to begin play in the spring of 2021 at RCGT Park. They are the 15th team in the Frontier League, an independent baseball league that has partnered with MLB.
OTTAWA SPORTS ORGANIZATIONS RECEIVE TRILLIUM GRANTS Thirty-two Ottawa-area projects will receive funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Resilient Communities Fund. Among those are sports organizations including the Beaver Boxing Club, Gloucester Lacrosse Association, and the Ottawa Sport Council. The Resilient Communities Fund gives non-profit organizations grants of up to $150,000. They can be used for things such as health supports for staff or volunteers, purchasing new technology and personal protective equipment, or renovations and facility updates.
OTTAWA TO HOST WHEELCHAIR BBALL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS Ottawa will be hosting the 2026 IWBF Wheelchair Basketball World Championships. The 28 participating teams will make it the largest-ever team sporting event for elite-level athletes with physical disabilities. Lansdowne Park, as well as Carleton University and the University of Ottawa will host the tournament in late-August to early-September 2026.
DYNES SPORTS MANAGEMENT LAUNCHES PODCAST Ottawa company Dynes Sports Management, which offers coaching and league facilitation services, has created the Dynes Sports Podcast. It’s part of its efforts to continue to be active in the sports community amid the pandemic. The interview-based podcast features guests that have included current and former professional athletes, coaches, and front office executives. It also covers both local Ottawa topics, and national and international stories. Nearly 50 episodes have been released so far.
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2020 68TH ANNUAL The Ottawa Sports Awards are pleased to honour the following individuals for their lifetime of contributions to our city’s amateur sports scene:
Mayor’s Cup (Outstanding Contribution to Sport in Ottawa)
TAKAHASHI FAMILY Martial Arts
Lifetime Coaching Award
ERIC LOUCKS Figure Skating
Lifetime Sports Volunteer Award
DEAN SHERRATT Wrestling
Lifetime Technical Official Award
CAROL ANNE CHÉNARD Soccer
In a year which saw remarkable challenges for many in the sporting community, the Ottawa Sports Awards are proud to highlight the years of commitment and excellence that these recipients have shown to sport in Ottawa. Out of respect for those who were unable to compete this year, we will not be presenting our individual or team honours for 2020. Our annual dinner event is also postponed. We look forward to celebrating the finest in Ottawa sport once conditions allow.
ore To read m ime ese Lifet about th isit: inners, v .ca w d r a w A s ortsaward
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~ ELITE ~
Mike Evelyn trades hockey skates for sled blades on the Canadian bobsled team By Martin Cleary If you were to put a title on Mike Evelyn’s athletic career to this point, it would have to be: Blades and Ice. For two decades, he was a high-level competitive hockey player, skating in the Central Canada Hockey League and for the Dalhousie University Tigers. But today, his hockey sticks and equipment bag are in storage somewhere as he has become a member of the Canadian men’s bobsleigh team, travelling mighty fast on much longer blades down narrow and dangerous ice chutes. After the fourth of his five years with the Dalhousie Tigers, the Ottawa native attended the RBC Training Ground finals in Atlantic Canada. His physical testing results were impressive and he was recruited by Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton. In the spring of 2018, he flew to Calgary for a one-week session of sliding and learning to pilot a sled. He fell in love with the speed and the sport. But first things first. He returned to Dalhousie to complete his engineering degree and hockey career in 2018-19. Evelyn played 127 career games for the Tigers and collected 22 goals, 14 assists and
Team Canada bobsledder Mike Evelyn.
182 penalty minutes as a forward. The 27-year-old former Nepean Raiders and Ottawa Jr. Senators CCHL player joined the national bobsleigh team for the 201920 season and successfully raced on the North American circuit. He had six two-man bobsleigh races with pilot Patrick Norton, which was highlighted by one fourth- and
three sixth-place finishes. He pushed for pilot Taylor Austin in his only four-man assignment and earned a victory at Park City, Utah. In his second, third and fourth two-man races with Norton, they significantly improved the time differential between their sled and the winner each time. The 6’3.5” and 230-pound Evelyn also has
been selected to the national team for this season and he’s aiming to compete in both the two- and four-man 2021 World Cup competitions with pilot Chris Spring in Europe. He feels bobsleigh is the perfect athletic fit for him. “I thought it was for me,” said Evelyn, after attending his bobsledding initiation in Calgary 2.5 years ago. “I motorcycle, too. I get the same rush (bobsledding). But with bobsleigh, we don’t have vehicles to crash into.” During the 2020-21 national team tryouts, Evelyn “exceeded expectations.” “I love the speed, going fast, the lifestyle, sprinting, lifting and the team culture. I missed that after I retired from hockey,” added Evelyn, who doesn’t drink coffee, but loves milkshakes. When Evelyn was young, his favourite movie was Cool Runnings, which featured the Jamaican bobsled team. “I could recite the lines verbatim. Probably seen it 12 to 20 times. But I had a lot of misconceptions about bobsleigh from watching that movie.” But now that Evelyn is living his own version of Cool Runnings, he’s learning all about the chilly and bone chilling sport first hand. “We’re glorified sprinters and then a sack of potatoes. We have no view. There’s no cardio required,” he said.
Martin Cleary’s HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay Safe Edition column appears online 5 days a week. Below are snippets of recent stories. For more like this, and to read the full versions of these columns, please visit OttawaSportsPages.ca
The long-time coach of Ottawa Lions 800-metre runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu died in November. Dennis Fairall, who coached Bishop-Nriagu at the University of Windsor, was remembered as a legend in the sport, and shared a special connection with the 2016 Olympic 4th-place finisher.
In an effort to get the students active physically and mentally, the Ontario association which governs high school sports has devised the OFSAA Virtual Challenges for a school or a team/class, or an individual to earn points and prizes. The online skills contests replace the regular slate of championships, cancelled due to COVID-19.
The Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club won seven East region titles at the modified Ontario cross-country running championships in November. Michael Day, Liz Maguire, Robert Mitchell, Jocelyn Giannotti, Ivy Bialowas, Pippa Norman and Dominique Church won races that ranged from under-10 to to masters age categories.
COVID-19 has ultimately wiped out most of the Canadian cross-country skiing competition season, including the cancellation of the 2021 national championships that were set to held at Nakkertok Nordic in Cantley, Que., but enthusiasm has remained high for events like team pushup and “count-your-kilometres” competitions.
Four Ottawa players are on NCAA men’s basketball rosters this season, though only two of them will see game action – LouthMohamed Coulibaly for the College of the Holy Cross Crusaders and Abdul Mohamed for Montana State University. Merissah Russell (pictured above) is also a rookie for the No. 5-ranked University of Louisville Cardinals women’s team.
Gatineau’s Karol-Ann Canuel will remain in her happy place for the 2021 women’s pro cycling season. After 5 rewarding years with Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team, she will return in 2021 to the world’s No. 1 women’s cycling team, which now has a new sponsor and name: Team SD Worx.
Five Ottawa Valley Golf Association juniors received scholarships worth between $2,000-$4,000 from Quebec Golf to reward their their academic excellence or academic and athletic success. Mathis Rollin (Camelot), James Newton (Royal Ottawa), Antonia Ho (Kanata), Yaorui Xu (Ottawa Hunt) and Isaiah Ibit (GreyHawk) were the local recipients.
Former Carleton University Ravens women’s basketball MVP Rosie Warden loved basketball, the Boys and Girls’ Club of Ottawa and her family. Warden died from colon cancer in November at age 42 and was remembered for making a legendary impact as an intense competitor, and as a dedicated referee, coach and mother.
~ ELITE ~
Rachel Homan: Aiming for a 4th Scotties title, supply teaching & expecting in April By Martin Cleary In her mind’s eye, Ottawa’s Rachel Homan could see a stream of light at the end of the curling tunnel. A day later, Curling Canada hit the switch and there was brilliant light, smothering this season of curling darkness. Homan’s rink, which usually starts training in July and prefers a busy competitive season, has been left in the hack for the past nine months because of varying COVID-19 protocols. But in an interview on Monday, she was hopeful. “It’s looking pretty good. The provincial association (Alberta) has come on board. They’re trying to iron out the details. Nothing is firm at this point for anyone. They’re figuring out putting on nationals. Time will tell,” she said. In December, Homan, her teammates and the Canadian curling community breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. Curling Canada announced a condensed Season of Champions is scheduled to be staged in a Hub City environment in Calgary. The 2021 dates for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the Tim Hortons Brier, the respective Canadian women’s and men’s championships, will be determined at a later date. Nationals will be held without fans at the 3,500-seat Markin
MacPhail Centre. “That would be great. It would definitely be a challenge. We’ve just been practising and no games. Nationals may look different. Maybe not as high quality or maybe not. It’s like riding a bike,” said Homan, a 5-time Ontario women’s champion. The world men’s curling championship, which was slated to be staged in TD Place Arena at Lansdowne Park, also is scheduled to move into the Calgary sports centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park. Ottawa will stage a future Curling Canada competition. The last time Team Homan gathered and played was at the 2020 Scotties in Moose Jaw, SK,
where it lost in the final 8-7 to Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson. When the global pandemic landed, curling, like other sports and activities, stopped. “Things didn’t go well at all,” Homan said about this season. Competitions were cancelled. Some smaller bonspiels were held, when moved to safer cities. One competition started, but was cancelled, after the 1st round. Practice ice was scarce.
‘WAIT AND SEE’ APPROACH Homan’s optimism was realistically balanced by some uncertainty. “We take it as it comes. It would be nice to go back to what we’re used
Hector Carranco feels it was “mostly sweet” to receive a Canoe Kayak Canada club development award in recognition of his years of service as a volunteer and administrator for the Rideau Canoe Club, though it came on the heels of the news that his position as the club’s full-time executive director would be “phased out” due to the impact of the pandemic.
A multitasker for life, two-time Olympic modern pentathlete Melanie McCann is now pursuing her third academic certificate, an MBA. The 31-year-old consultant for the DeloitteUK infrastructure and capital projects team recently earned a Game Plan scholarship through the Canadian Olympic Committee to enrol in Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business.
The Teddy Larose Bursary will live on in the memory of the long-time St. Pius X-Men high school football head coach who died at the end of November at the age of 74. Remembered for his devotion to community spirit and servanthood, Larose’s annual bursary will go to a student who’s overcame challenges on the path to graduation.
Cameron Butterfield is an “A” student at McGill University – as in Academics, Athletics and Acts of kindness, and that’s also the grade mark in each of his electrical engineering courses. The Ashbury College grad was recently named a recipient of the Jean Béliveau Athletic Award in recognition of his achievements on the soccer pitch, in the classroom, and in the community.
to, but we don’t seem headed that way. It’s wait and see. The whole world is wait and see.” Team Homan, the 2017 world and 3x Canadian champion, has been careful trying to play this season with Homan and lead Joanne Courtney (both young moms) based in Edmonton, newly acquired second Sarah Wilkes in Calgary and Emma Miskew in Ottawa. Putting health and safety before sport, Team Homan registered for the Okotoks Ladies Classic because it was in Alberta. The team was excited, but knew more health restrictions could be introduced at any moment. They were right. “We thought we could get
through it,” said Homan, who played one match, a 7-1 win over Jennifer Jones, before the competition was cancelled. And with Alberta’s positive COVID-19 numbers climbing, Homan’s next four competitions were shut down. “It was great to be on the ice, great to have competition. It was still short. It was tough. We turned around and went back home, where there was no ice. We couldn’t practice as a team. Definitely a challenge to figure out what’s right to do.” But life without curling hasn’t been all that bad for Homan, who has earned her BA in education and is now a supply teacher in Edmonton’s elementary and secondary system. And she’s also pregnant, expecting her second child in April. “I had a small (teaching) contract and then curling started. Teaching took a back seat. I thought things would open up (for curling), but then it shut down,” she added. “COVID dictated that for us. Sometimes we were on the ice for a week.” Homan, whose son Ryatt is 18 months old, likely will be in her third trimester when the Scotties Tournament of Hearts is scheduled to unfold in Calgary. But she’s optimistic everything will play out well as a mother-to-be and as a skip. “I hope so. I was able to do it the last time. Time will tell,” Homan said.
Since the worldwide pandemic shut down their successful 2019-20 season a few weeks before attempting to win their third National Preparatory Association championship, Canada Topflight Academy hasn’t got to play any games. There’s hope for the chance to play in 2021, but for the moment, it’s practice, practice, practice for CTA’s elite high school basketball players.
Ottawa sports icon Mike Scott celebrated his milestone 90th birthday on Dec. 1. The well-known and loved boxer, canoeist, longdistance runner, triathlete, cross-country skier, coach, commodore, author, builder and hall of famer says that remaining active – he paddled 8 km 3-4 times a week until recently – has certainly helped him become a nonagenarian.
Seven singles figure skaters represented Eastern Ontario at November’s virtual Ontario Sectional Championships. For the COVID-era Sectionals, skaters submitted videos of their performances at each of their home clubs to be judged, instead of gathering together at one site.
The “Hein Bucks” – affectionately named after head coach Dave Heinbuch – emerged as the overall team champs from six University of Ottawa Gee-Gees dual swim meets modelled after the International Swimming League. The events helped keep the team active and engaged, and featured an appearance from Ottawa native Eli Wall, who was an alternate for Toronto’s ISL team.
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The Year 10, No. 6 edition of the Ottawa Sports Pages newspaper, published Dec. 16, 2020.