HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
The National Capital Region has sent 11 male cross-country skiers to the Winter Olympics between 1928 and 2006, and in their combined 17 races, the best result has been a 34th by Donald MacLeod in the 15-kilometre classic race in the 1964 Games.
But Antoine Cyr of Gatineau has his eye set on re-writing that small piece of local nordic ski history, if he qualifies for Canada’s cross-country ski team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The potential certainly is there and he showed that in back-to-back World Cup races in Ruka, Finland on the weekend.
Cyr, 23, recorded a career-best result Saturday, when he placed 11th in the men’s 15-kilometre individual start classic-ski race in 34 minutes and nine-tenths of a second.
On Sunday, the Club Skinouk athlete compiled a second top-15 result, when he placed 12th in the 15-kilometre skate-ski pursuit race on a bitterly cold day.
“This is huge,” Cyr said after landing on the doorstep of a top-10 finish Saturday. “As an athlete you always want to reach the best potential you know you are capable of and today I felt I was near my best and almost in the top 10 on the World Cup, which is insane.
“It was so fun racing out there and I’m excited to know I can be there. It hurt, but it felt good.”
Cyr skied most of his first weekend race by himself on lightning-fast skis over a difficult, hard-packed classic course. By striding up long, gradual slopes as well as double poling, he found success against the top skiers in the world. Finland’s Iivo Niskanan repeated as champion in 33:08.6.
Carrying more confidence to the start line for Sunday’s race, the second-year World Cup racer with a previous-best result of 21st skied a second solid race on a tough course in cold conditions.
After Katherine Stewart-Jones of Chelsea finished 35th in the women’s 10-kilometre individual start classic-ski race in 26:23.4 on Saturday, she entered the 10-kilometre pursuit, which is part two of the race, and finished 21st overall Sunday in 28:40.1. The Sunday race had two delays.
“I’m happy with how I dealt with the situation and felt much better than yesterday (Saturday),” she said. “I had more fight in me to hunt people down slowly and not gas myself from the start.”
JUNIOR PAN AM MEDAL IN SIGHT FOR IMAN SHAHEEN
Ottawa squash player Iman Shaheen is in contention for a medal at the Junior (U23) Pan-American Games in Cali, Colombia, after Canada defeated Guatemala 3-0 in the women’s team quarterfinals.
She defeated Darlyn Paola Sandoval Rodriguez 11-7, 11-6 in her team match. Canada is scheduled to play Mexico in the semifinals on Tuesday morning.
In earlier competition, Shaheen, 16, lost in the women’s singles round of 16 to eventual gold-medallist Marina Stefanoni of the United States 11-2, 11-2, 11-9. Shaheen defeated Kaitya Mercela Aceituno Soriano of El Salvador 11-4, 11-8, 11-7 in her opening match.
PROVINCIAL TEAM BERTHS FOR TWO JUNIOR GOLFERS
Ashley Lafontaine of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club and Isaiah Ibit of the Greyhawk Golf Club have been named to the 2022 Team Ontario squad.
Lafontaine was the Ontario girls’ junior match-play semi-finalist and tied for eighth place in the provincial junior championship. Ibit tied for third at the Ontario boys’ super camp and tour championship, and shared seventh place in the next-gen fall series East boys’ championship.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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