By Dan Plouffe
Ottawa athletes and sports figures were in the spotlight from the start and sprinkled throughout the evening as the 41st Canadian Sport Awards gala returned to life on Sept. 20 at Brookstreet Hotel.
Ottawa’s Dave DeAveiro, assistant coach for Canada’s silver medal-winning Commonwealth Games men’s basketball team, accepted the first prize of the night for summer male team of the year.
“To go in as university players competing against professionals and to come away with a medal was really, really memorable,” reflected DeAveiro, who helped guide a crew that included Munis Tutu of the Carleton Ravens and Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles from the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.
Canada’s women’s basketball Commonwealth Games team scored the second award of the night for summer female team of the year. That squad included Ravens/Gee-Gees grad Catherine Traer and high schooler Merissah Russell.
“Getting that chance to step foot in a competitive environment where it’s not just high school or even provincial – these are like real women that have experienced life, and you’re playing besides them and they’re smarter than you, they’re faster than you, they know how to use their body in the right way because they’ve been playing for such a long time – it was the best experience ever,” Russell told the Ottawa Sportspage earlier this year.
Part of Team Jennifer Jones’ winter team of the year curling rink, Ottawa native Dawn McEwen completed the list of local winners, while other Ottawa figures nominated as finalists included John Morris (winter partners of the year), Ben Delaney & Tyrone Henry (winter team of the year), Geneviève Lacasse (winter team of the year), Todd Nicholson (AthletesCAN Social Responsibility Award) and Leo Landry (#AthleteVoice Award – Rep of the Year).
There were a number of Ottawa award presenters as well, including Paralympic snowboarder John Leslie, past summer and winter Olympian Sue Holloway, and Nicholson, who was recently appointed chair of Own The Podium.
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir headlined the list of national award winners, taking home the partners of the year and people’s choice prizes at the event that recognized a total of 18 winners from 4 categories: sport performance, influencers, corporate excellence and people’s choice.
Former Olympians Alexandre Despatie and Perdita Felicien co-emceed the event.
“It’s really good, the more we can recognize our Olympic and Paralympic athletes,” said Nicholson, speaking the night before his family’s Dunrobin home was levelled by the tornado. “It’s important to recognize the people that have done and continue to do great things,” he added. “And what a lot of us need to understand is there are so many more great stories out there we don’t even know about that people are doing in their own communities.”
The Awards night occurred in concert with the AthletesCAN Forum, a gathering of Canadian athlete representatives to discuss sport issues outside the competition setting.
Local Olympians/Paralympians Erica Wiebe, Seyi Smith and Josh Cassidy also appeared in a video helping to recite a 100-line poem written by Olympic triathlon champion Simon Whitfield called The Torch We Carry – part of an effort to fundraise $10,000 to support Canadian national team athletes.
On hiatus since the last edition in 2011, the Canadian Sport Awards returned under the direction of the AthletesCAN organization.
“Even from my time as an athlete, AthletesCAN has always been there, they’ve been that staple,” underlines Nicholson, who won his first of 3 Paralympic sledge hockey medals in 1994. “I cannot thank them enough for all that they’re doing. For their recognition, and the tireless number of volunteer hours that a lot of people put in to put on an event like this.”