Canoe-Kayak Community Clubs Elite Amateur Sport Volleyball

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Volleyball Hall honours three local icons; Rideau Canoe Club strikes for five gold medals at nationals

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

Three Ottawa and region volleyball greats have been selected as part of the largest group ever named in one class for induction into the Ontario Volleyball Association Hall of Fame.

The Class of 2021 included athlete Paul Gratton of Ottawa, a 1984 Canadian Olympian; athlete Regyna Armonas of Renfrew, who played in the 1976 Olympics for Canada, and Sylvie Bigras of Ottawa, named a Furlani Legend.

Inducted into the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame in 2003, Gratton played nine seasons for the Canadian men’s national team (1977-85), served as captain from 1982-85, and placed a best-ever fourth for Canada at the 1984 Olympics.

Gratton, recognized for his dynamic skills as a power hitter and blocker, played several years in the top professional men’s leagues in Japan, Italy and France. He frequently received all-star and MVP awards.

When he stepped off the court, volleyball remained the backbone of his life as he formed the first North American sports agency in 1991 focused exclusively on pro athlete management services for talented players.

He identified a missing link in the Canadian volleyball system, created the agency and helped hundreds of players continue their careers as professionals around the world.

Gratton joined Ottawa’s Maverick Volleyball Club in 2007 as its director of boys’ senior high-performance programs, which contributed to its first Canadian 18U title in 2009. He also has been a Maverick assistant coach.

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Armonas was recognized as much for her significant, all-around contributions to the Loyalist College women’s volleyball program in the early 1980s as she was for playing on Canada’s first women’s Olympic team.

As the host country for the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, Canada had an automatic berth into women’s volleyball. Canada finished eighth, after losing all three preliminary games and two consolation matches.

When Armonas enrolled at Loyalist in 1981, women’s volleyball didn’t exist. But she played a key role in putting the Lancers into the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association and taking them to first place in their debut.

A strong all-around individual, Armonas won the Ed Logan Trophy for her academic and athletic skills during her college career. In 1992, she was named the Loyalist female athlete of the quarter century.

The Ontario Volleyball Association Hall of Fame committee selected Bigras as one of five Furlani Legends for making major contributions to the sport for a minimum of 25 years.

Anton Furlani was an outstanding pioneer in the sport, running the provincial and national associations out of his basement in the early days. He organized the first international tournament in Canada and was an official.

Bigras was a founding member of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s volleyball team in the 1977-78 season. In 1980, she helped the Gee-Gees capture the silver medal at the Canadian university championship.

She also helped the Gee-Gees volleyball team earn full status to play at the university varsity level. All of her contributions led to Bigras being named to the uOttawa Gee-Gees Women’s Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2016.

The University of Ottawa Alumni Association also honoured the communications professional with a Community Service Award. Bigras has volunteered with the Volleyball Nations League and is involved with the Gee-Gees’ program.

A former Volleyball Canada executive director, Bigras has been involved with 15 Olympic, four Commonwealth and five Pan Am Games as the press chief or a senior communications specialist.

Rideau rolls on at home nationals

Meanwhile, at the Canadian canoe-kayak sprint championships on the Mooney’s Bay racecourse, host Rideau Canoe Club almost doubled its gold-medal count with five first-place finishes Thursday and seven podium finishes in total.

A nine-time national burgee winner, Rideau has won 21 medals (11 gold, six silver, four bronze), while Ottawa River Canoe Club earned its first three, all bronze, and the Carleton Place Canoe Club took a silver for its second medal.

Rideau’s Madeline Schmidt, who raced at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, won the senior women’s K1 1,000 metres, while Gabriel Ferron-Bouius captured the para mixed KL race and Fletcher Sloan was the Paddleall MK1 200-metre winner.

In the masters class, Marie-Andrée Jacques and Isabelle Fradette were one-two respectively in the women’s C1 500 metres, and Jeffery Daniels was first in the men’s C1 500 metres. Amelia Wojtyk was third in women’s U18 K1 1,000 metres.

Ottawa River’s bronze medallists were: Sarah Madore, Paddleall WK1 200 metres, Kyle Moore, men’s masters K1 500 metres, and Andrey Gorelvo, men’s masters C1 500 metres.

Carleton Place Canoe Club’s Darryl Clarke placed second in the Paddleall MK1 200 metres.

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