HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
WEEKEND WRAP: Middle-distance runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu grew up in Eganville, ON., formerly trained in Ottawa and has competed around the world as one of the best female 800-metre runners.
But if there’s one city that holds a special spot in her heart, it’s Windsor and in particular, the University of Windsor. That’s where she found coach Dennis Fairall and where her exceptional running journey evolved over the past decade.
Bishop-Nriagu, who remains fully motivated despite the passing of the inspirational Fairall 19 months ago, returned to Windsor for another competitive step on her road to a third Summer Olympic Games.
Competing in her seventh outdoor race since March 13 under COVID-19 pandemic protocols, Bishop-Nriagu set a meet record Saturday evening at the Johnny Loaring Classic, when she won the women’s 800 metres in one minute, 59.60 seconds.
A month ago at the USATF Golden Games in Walnut, CA., Bishop-Nriagu bettered the Athletics Canada Olympic A standard of 1:59.50, placing third behind two British runners in 1:58.62. Her personal best is 1:57.01.
Here is Bishop-Nriagu’s 800-metre progression for the 2021 season: 2:02.51, Victoria; 2:04.18, Eugene, OR.; 1:59.40, Chula Vista, CA.; 1:58.62, Walnut, CA.; and 1:59.60, Windsor.
Bishop-Nriagu, who represents the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, also has had two 1,500-metre races. After running 4:09.36 in mid-March at a Victoria Twilight meet, she achieved a stellar, personal-best time of 4:04.42 in Irvine, CA.
While Bishop-Nriagu is ranked No. 29 as of June 8 on the IAAF list for the women’s 800 metres, her times are comparable to seven in the top 10 in 2021. The other three, including the top two, haven’t run since 2019.
The seven athletes who have competed this year outdoors have run 1:58s and/or 1:59s. There is no dominant runner 47 days before the first round of the women’s 800 metres at the Tokyo Olympics.
Elsewhere at the Johnny Loaring Classic, Alicia Brown of Ottawa won the women’s 400 metres in 52.49 seconds, while Shyvonne Roxborough of Ottawa captured the second heat of the women’s 100 metres in 11.14.
CYCLIST WOODS SHARP IN TOUR DE SUISSE
Meanwhile, former Lions runner Michael Woods executed a solid road cycling performance at the eight-stage Tour de Suisse, finishing fifth overall and 2:55 back, first in the mountain and seventh in point classifications.
Despite placing 128th in the opening time trial and being 1:19 back of the leader, he fought back with a seventh and a 10th in the next two stages, a third in stage five and a sprint second in the final eighth stage.
STITTSVILLE CURLER NAMED TO WORLD TEAM
Collinda Joseph of Stittsville has been named by Curling Canada to the successful five-athlete team for the 2021 World Wheelchair Curling Championships October 23-30 in Beijing. It will be the test event for the 2022 Olympics and Paralympics.
Joseph joined Ina Forrest of Armstrong, B.C., Mark Ideson of London, Dennis Thiessen of Winnipeg and Jon Thurston of Dunsford, ON., in 2019. She curled in the second and fifth positions at the 2020 world championships.
Canada earned the silver medal at the 2020 worlds, which was the country’s first medal in five years. The Canadian team needed to win the International Federation B championship to qualify for the worlds.
SWORDS, SERRESSE GET THE COACHING CALL
Canada Basketball’s four-man coaching staff for the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup includes two assistants with Ottawa connections – Shawn Swords of Ottawa and Justin Serresse, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s assistant from 2010-16.
Swords has been involved with the national team as a player and a coach for 25 years, including 10 as a player. The 2000 Olympian has been the head coach of the Laurentian University Voyageurs since 2007.
Serresse is the head coach of the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks men’s basketball team and coaches Ali and Ismael Sow and KJ Massela, all of Ottawa, and Benhur Gebrekidan of Gatineau.
TWO OTTAWA FOOTBALL AWARD WINNERS
At the recent University of Michigan football prospects camp, Khalid Campbell of Ottawa was named the running back award winner, and offensive tackle Uber Ajongo of Ottawa was selected the offensive- and defensive-lineman award recipient.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.