HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
WEEKEND WRAP: For the first time in the 58-year history of the Canadian mixed curling championship, a pair of provincial teams from the National Capital Region met head-to-head in the gold-medal final.
In the corner tossing the blue stones stood Quebec skip Jean-Michel Ménard and lead Annie Lemay of Chelsea’s Des Collines club, along with third Marie-France Larouche and Ian Belleau of Etchemin in Lévis.
In the corner playing the red stones were Ontario skip Mike McLean, third Erin Morrissey, second Kevin Tippett and lead Erica Hopson of the Ottawa Curling Club.
Playing their 12th match each, Ménard used his almost quarter-century of national-level experience to eke out a 5-4 extra-end victory over McLean for the title at the Canmore, AB., Golf and Curling Club. Ménard’s rink will represent Canada at the 2022 world mixed curling championship Oct. 15-22 in Aberdeen, Scotland.
It was the second consecutive year a team from the same two Quebec clubs had won the title. In 2020, skip Jean Sebastian Roy, third Amelie Blais, second Dan deWaard and lead Brenda Nicholls of Collines and Etchemin emerged as champions.
For Ménard, it was his second national mixed title in 20 years and his third Canadian championship overall as he captured the 2006 men’s title at the Briar. When he won the 2001 national mixed gold medal, his rink was completed by Jessica Marchand, Marco Berthelot and Joelle Sabourin.
“It’s quite a feeling,” Ménard said in a phone interview. “I stopped playing (top-level) men’s curling three to four years ago because our kids are growing up. They have lots of activities and we need to be there for them.
“It’s the end of the journey for the team (for 2021). We were hoping, it wasn’t a guarantee, and we knew we had a sniff. We played well to win the championship.”
In 2019, Ménard and his wife Lemay were visiting long-time friends Larouche and Belleau in Quebec City. The discussion turned to curling and the idea of forming a team for the next Canadian mixed championship.
It proved to be a smart decision, but it took a long time to get on the ice because the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with the past two seasons. On the Thanksgiving weekend last month, the Ménard rink started its journey by winning the Quebec championship to qualify for nationals.
Ménard will continue playing men’s league curling twice a week, but also will be drawing up a strategy to prepare his rink for the 2022 world mixed championship. It will be the second world championship for Ménard, who was the silver medallist at the 2006 men’s final.
“Overall, honestly, we were 9-3,” Ménard added. “But it could have been 3-9. There were two games we controlled, but the remaining ones almost always came down to the last rock. We had to keep our focus and continue to fight.”
After Ménard and McLean placed first in their respective preliminary pools at 5-1, they advanced to the championship pool. McLean finished second, while Ménard was fourth, but they had matching 7-3 records.
In the semifinals, Ménard upset Yellowknife’s Jamie Koe 6-4, while McLean edged James Grattan of Fredericton 6-5. Koe placed first overall entering the playoffs at 9-1.
Ménard made an incredible shot in the sixth end of the final with the match deadlocked 3-3. McLean had three stones in and around the four-foot circle. Ménard defused a potential game-ending situation, when his perfectly weighted shot fit into a narrow opening for a double take-out and freeze on an Ontario stone. Instead of allowing McLean’s rink to earn as many as four or five points, Ménard stole one for a 4-3 lead.
After the seventh end was blanked, McLean scored one in the eighth to force an extra end. With a single Ménard stone in the house, McLean’s final shot tapped Ménard’s stone back, but it remained the counting stone. Ménard didn’t need to deliver his final stone.
“It was a tight game the whole way through,” McLean said in a phone interview. “It was back and forth. We felt we had control in the sixth. The end was shaping up well. But Jean-Michel made the shot of the tournament. They played phenomenal. They deserved it.
“We had our ups and downs (in the championship). We got our share of breaks to help us. We played really well and going to an extra end in the final is better than we expected.”
McLean took an Ontario rink to the Canadian mixed championship in 2015.
GEE-GEES SETTLE FOR SILVER IN U SPORTS WOMEN’S RUGBY
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees bid for a second U Sports women’s rugby championship in five years fell short as host Queen’s University Gaels scored a soggy 26-18 victory in the gold-medal final.
The Gee-Gees, who rallied to end the first half tied at 15-15, received first-half trys from Taylor Donato and Madison Grant, while Claire Gallagher kicked two penalty goals and one convert.
Queen’s was led by U Sports women’s rugby player of the year Sophie De Goede, who scored 16 points off one try, three penalty goals and one convert.
The Gee-Gees, who won their first U Sports silver medal in 2016, reached the final by defeating St. Francis Xavier 40-12 in the quarterfinals and Victoria Vikes 17-14 in the second overtime period of their semifinal.
Props Maya Montiel and Meredith Sirrs, hooker Anna Dodge and winger Alexandra Ondo were named to the all-championship team. Gallagher was the Gee-Gees’ Nike Top Performer in the final.
Earlier, Ondo and Montiel were selected to the U Sports All Canadian first team, while Gallagher, Dodge and Grant were placed on the second team.
Ondo became only the third athlete in Gee-Gees’ varsity sport history to be a four-time All Canadian. The other two athletes were Leslie Irie, volleyball, 1984-87, and Neil Lumsden, football, 1972-75.
QUEEN’S ENDS GEE-GEES’ FOOTBALL SEASON IN OUA SEMIS
Kingston also was the site of another University of Ottawa and Queen’s University athletic battle as the Gaels defeated the Gee-Gees 32-15 in the OUA football semifinals.
Campbell Fair paced the Gee-Gees with nine points off field goals from 17, 45 and 42 yards. Tristin Park scored the team’s only touchdown with three minutes left in the game off a pass from quarterback Ben Maracle.
J.P. Cimankinda was the Gee-Gees’ top running back, gaining 97 yards. Maracle passed for 185 yards and added 41 yards rushing.
OTTAWA LIONS CAPTURE FOUR ONTARIO XC GOLD MEDALS
Sparked by the performance of Amelia Van Brabant, the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club won three individual and one team gold medals at the Athletics Ontario cross-country running championships in Kingston.
Van Brabant, the Ottawa high school girls’ senior champion, scored an impressive victory in the girls’ U18 class by covering 6,000 metres in 21 minutes, 37.2 seconds. She won her race by more than 28 seconds.
She earned a second gold medal in the girls’ U18 team category. The Lions’ team of Van Brabant, Olivia Baggley, fifth in 22:42.2, Cara MacDonald, ninth in 23:03.2, and Gillian Porter, 22nd in 23:36.9, scored 37 placement points.
The Lions’ other gold medallists were Sinead Gomes in girls U10 and Ronan Lebel in boys’ U8 with respective 1,000-metre times of 3:30.7 and 3:52.1.
Scoring top-10 results in the women’s U20 8,000-metre race were Skye Pellerin, fourth, 31:59; Elana Tyman, sixth, 33:52.8; and Amy Thompson, ninth, 36:15.7.
Ottawa’s Erin O’Higgins, who races for Mile2Marathon, was seventh in the women’s open 8,000 metres in 31:13.3.
JONATHAN DAVID GIVES CANADA CRUCIAL SOCCER WIN OVER COSTA RICA
Gloucester’s Jonathan David scored the game’s only goal as Canada blanked Costa Rica 1-0 to earn three more critical points towards qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar.
David scored 12 minutes into the second half, which electrified the 48,806 fans on a brisk night in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. He quickly reacted to a loose ball, which was mishandled by Costa Rica goalkeeper Leonel Moreira. Stephen Eustaquio made the initial cross to the Costa Rica net.
Canada’s next game is Tuesday against Mexico in Edmonton. The top three teams in the final eight-country CONCACAF qualifying tournament automatically qualify for the World Cup in November, 2022. The fourth-place team moves into an intercontinental playoff for one final spot.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 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.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.