HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
We all have something that sticks with us daily. It could be a memory, prayers or a medical issue. Former national-level, indoor field hockey goalkeeper Shankar Premakanthan of Ottawa understands that.
For Premakanthan, it’s Achilles tendinitis, which he “lives with every day.” It’s a negative he deals with, but it’s also a positive, reminding him of his long and accomplished career with the Canadian men’s indoor field hockey team.
Field Hockey Canada recently announced the retirement of three Ontario members of the Canadian men’s indoor team – Jeewanjot Bath, Jonathan Roberts and Premakanthan, who unofficially started that process back in 2015.
In his mind, Premakanthan had retired after his fourth and final Indoor World Cup, playing through that championship with an injury. For the next few years, injuries followed him and he became the Canadian women’s indoor head coach.
While he’s still involved in the sport as a club player and coach, including the Ontario women’s U23 squad, he was thrilled and surprised to see his national sports federation had released an official retirement notification.
“It was nice to have my career acknowledged by Field Hockey Canada,” Premakanthan said in a recent phone interview.
During the 2015 Indoor World Cup in Leipzig, Germany, his Achilles tendinitis would flare up now and then. But he praised the team physiotherapist for doing a phenomenal taping job and allowing him to play in goal.
“That was one of the biggest reasons (for retirement),” he added. “I was 35 and had a good, lengthy career. I was looking to transition out (as a player) and into coaching at the university and provincial levels and help the indoor team.”
One of the few world players to compete in the first four Indoor World Cups, he helped Canada place sixth in 2003, seventh in 2007, 10th in 2011 and 12th in 2015, He also won Indoor Pan American Cup gold in 2002, 2005, 2010 and 2014.
“My first Indoor World Cup was in Germany. In our last pool game against Germany on a Friday night, the stadium was packed with 6,000 to 8,000 people,” Premakanthan said.
“I was 22 and coming off the Junior World Cup the year before. This hit home as to how big the sport is. The fans were close. It was a cool experience and it cemented my love for the indoor game.”
As a goalkeeper, Premakanthan had his own style. It wasn’t unusual for him to use his speed and agility to serve as a defender and cover an opposing team forward to deny any passing or scoring opportunities.
Premakanthan, 41, still has his heart solidly in the game. If he had one wish, he would love to see the Canadian indoor and outdoor teams get more international experience to strengthen their programs.
“In Europe, teams play each other more often,” he said. “You can drive across half of Europe in 15 hours, but if you drive 15 hours here, you’re still in Ontario. We need more game experience and see teams more except every four years.”
Nationals-host Rideau Canoe Club nails down 6 more medals
Meanwhile, on the second day of the Canadian sprint canoe-kayak championships on the Mooney’s Bay racecourse, host Rideau Canoe Club more than doubled its medal production from the opening day.
Rideau, aiming for its 10th career national burgee points championship, scored three gold and three silver medals to bring its two-day total to five gold, three silver and one bronze.
Toshka Besharah won the women’s U18 K1 200 metres for her second national title in as many days, while Ella Hodgson-Pageau was the fastest in the women’s U18 C1 200 metres. Kieran Graham took the men’s U18 C1 500 metres for his second gold medal.
The victories by Besharah and Graham should put them in a good position to be named to Canada’s junior team for the world junior and U23 championships Sept. 3-6 in Montemor-O-Velho, Portugal.
Cascades’ Sophia Jensen of Chelsea, Que., dominated the senior women’s C1 500 metres with a four-second victory. It was Jensen’s second medal, after she earned silver in the 200 metres on Monday.
The Rideau silver medallists were: Natalie Davison, senior women’s K1 500 metres; Evie McDonald, women’s U18 C1 200 metres and Ydris Hunter, senior men’s C1 500 metres.
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.