HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
It’s Monday, so that must mean it’s time for another Weekend Wrap. The focus will be on National Capital Region athletes in sprint canoe-kayak, cross-country skiing, cycling and curling.
Rideau Canoe Club’s Madeline Schmidt has represented Canada at a combined six world junior, U23 and senior canoe kayak championships in her 11 years on the national team, but never an Olympic Games.
That will change this summer, when Schmidt becomes part of Team Canada for the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo, July 23 to Aug. 8. Schmidt will compete in the women’s K4 500-metre race, after qualifying at the recent Olympic trials in Burnaby, B.C.
The crew of Alanna Bray-Lougheed (Burloak), Andréanne Langlois (Trois-Rivières), Michelle Russell (Cheema) and Schmidt powered their way to two K4 500-metre wins for their Olympic spot, which must be verified by the Canadian Olympic Committee.
Schmidt, who was close to making the 2016 Rio Olympics, moved out west to a bubble training environment on Shawnigan Lake last fall, like many of her national teammates. It was a move that had many challenges, but it proved worthwhile.
Read more: Rideau paddler ‘still happy’ despite narrow miss at 2016 Olympic trials
“We have trained in every weather condition – hail, snow, giant waves,” Schmidt said in a Canoe-Kayak Canada news release. “It has definitely brought us closer together as a team.”
After eight races in four days, Schmidt also finished second in both K2 500-metre races with Lissa Bissonnette (Pointe Claire), and third and second in the two K1 500-metre finals behind double winner Russell.
Cascades Club’s Sophia Jensen and Rideau’s Drew Hodges will have to wait a little longer to see if they’ll paddle in the 2021 Olympics, which are being staged one year later than scheduled because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Read more: Despite COVID challenges, sprint paddler Drew Hodges set for Olympic trials in Vancouver
And it was the pandemic which blocked Jensen and Hodges from competing in their second canoe final races Sunday. The second final in the women’s C2 500 metres and men’s C1 1,000 metres will be rescheduled.
The two races were postponed “due to reported symptoms of illness, signalling the activation of the Canoe Kayak Canada COVID protocols,” the national association said in a media release.
“The affected individuals were immediately placed into isolation, steps for proactive contact tracing were initiated in consultation with public health officials and COVID testing.”
The two canoe finals won’t be held at the Pan Am canoe sprint championships and Tokyo continental qualifiers in Brazil next month because the pandemic has cancelled that regatta. Other dates and locations are being considered. The International Canoe Federation board of directors will meet Friday to discuss the qualifying issue.
Kayaker Natalie Davison of Rideau competed in 10 races, winning the K2 500 metres with Courtney Stott (Balmy Beach) and posting a pair of second-place finishes with her crew in the women’s K4 500 metres.
Gabriel Ferron-Boulus of Rideau won all three of his para kayak 200-metre races, but must achieve some international criteria before he will be considered for nomination to the Canadian team for the Paralympic Games, which follow the Olympics.
Katie Vincent (Mississauga) was the only other athlete to earn her 2021 Olympic ticket at the trials, when she upset Laurence Vincent-Lapointe (Trois-Rivières), winning two of three women’s C1 200-metre finals.
Jensen, 19, pressed the two favourites in the C1 race, finishing third each time, two seconds behind Vincent-Lapointe in the first final and 0.72 seconds behind Vincent in the second final. But her C2 500 metres was even more impressive.
Jensen and partner Julia Lilley-Osende (Mic Mac) were only 0.469 seconds behind Vincent-Lapointe and Vincent in the first final. If Jensen and Lilley-Osende or another double wins the second final, there will be a third final.
Canada must still earn a berth in the Olympic women’s C2 500 metres by winning a spot at an international qualifying regatta this spring. Canada can take a maximum of three women for canoe, which makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
Hodges placed second in the first men’s C1 1,000-metre final to Connor Fitzpatrick (Senobe) and must win the rescheduled second final to force another final. He raced with Craig Spence (Cheema) for a pair of seconds in the C2, 1000-metre finals.
Rideau clubmates Ella Hodgson-Pageau and Evie McDonald were third in the first women’s C2 500-metre final. Rideau’s Rowan Hardy-Kavanagh, Anna Roy-Cyr (Lac Beauport) took fourth. Hodgson-Pageau and McDonald were fourth and sixth respectively in C1 200 metres.
Ottawa River Canoe Club’s Michael Trauner recorded three straight second-place finishes in para VA 200 metres, while clubmate Brianna Hennessy had two fifths and one sixth.
Rideau’s Maren Bradley and Alexa Irvin (Maskwa) reached the women’s K2 500-metre finals, earning a pair of thirds, while clubmate Stephen Frodsham was third in his men’s C1 1,000-metre heat, but had no time in his semifinal.
Nakkertok skier again cracks top-30 in final World Cup event
The World Cup cross-country ski season ended in Engadin, Switzerland, with Nakkertok Nordic’s Katherine Stewart-Jones finishing a career-best season with a 24th in the 30-kilometre pursuit race. She was 44th in the opening race, which was her start number for the 30-km race.
After registering only one top-30 placement last season for World Cup points, Stewart-Jones had six finishes in that elite grouping on either the World Cup circuit or at the world championships.
Gatineau’s Antoine Cyr of Skinouk completed his breakout season by finishing 29th in the men’s 50-kilometre pursuit, after starting 21st, which was his result in the Saturday’s mass-start race.
Woods misses pro race, Hempstead sets Guinness cycling record
Ottawa pro cyclist Michael Woods of Israel Start-Up Nation missed the 56th Tirreno-Adriatico stage race because of bronchitis. “Gutted to be missing… but have to keep the bigger picture in mind,” he wrote on Twitter.
Riding as part of a CRUSH COVID: Ride for Mind fundraiser, Ottawa’s Lucy Hempstead smashed the Guinness record for greatest distance covered by a woman on a stationary bike in 24 hours on Friday and Saturday.
“I knew the world record attempt was going to be a challenge, but I wasn’t expecting the incredible outpouring of support, not only for my ride, but for CRUSH COVID: Ride for Mind – raising over $400,000 for the Michael Garron Hospital and mental health resources,” Hempstead, who rode 812 km to eclipse the previous mark of 680 km, said in a news release. “Thank you to everyone that has supported me along the way and those who donated to this important cause. I’m so proud to have smashed this record!”
Brier silver for Johnny Mo
Playing for Alberta-based Team Kevin Koe, Ottawa native John Morris came up one step short of claiming his fourth-career Brier national curling title on Sunday evening in Calgary.
Morris’ new team of Koe, B.J. Neufeld and Ben Hebert earned a bye to the final with a tournament-best 10-2 record, but fell 4-2 to Brendan Bottcher in the championship game.
The 42-year-old two-time Olympic champion grew up in Gloucester and has lived near Calgary for almost two decades.
Two players with local roots also competed for Team Ontario at the Brier, with Brent Laing and Mat Camm posting a 7-5 record alongside skip John Epping.
—with files from Ottawa Sports Pages staff
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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