HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
WEEKEND WRAP: If you were to ask Laura Leclair to summarize in a single word her performances at the Eastern Canada/Candy Cane cross-country ski championships, she would say: “Super.”
It would be hard to dispute that, after the Chelsea Nordiq club skier won both women’s races in the first major nordic ski championship in this region since the start of the pandemic in March, 2020.
After winning the senior women’s 1.3-kilometre sprint by three-tenths of a second over Shaylynn Loewen of Georgian Bay Nordic on Saturday, Leclair dominated the 10-kilometre interval-start classic race on Sunday, posting a 25.8-second victory.
“Super happy, super proud,” Leclair, who trains at the Pierre Harvey centre at Mont Ste. Anne, Que., beamed after her Sunday race on the Nakkertok Nordic Ski Club trails in Cantley, Que.
“The conditions were amazing. It was spring skiing and the course was really fun. I’m super happy to win in front of my family and friends here at home back in the Outaouais.”
Leclair covered the 10-kilometre race on a mix of man-made and natural snow in 28 minutes, 5.3 seconds. Chelsea Nordiq teammate Tory Audet was second overall and the top women’s junior skier in 28:31.1.
Tove Halvorsen of Chelsea and the University of Laval and Bronwyn Williams of Cantley and Carleton University were second and third respectively in the women’s race and third and fourth overall in 29:03.7 and 29:26.7. Williams was scheduled to race this past weekend in the FISU Universiade Games in Lucerne, but it was cancelled two weeks ago.
In Saturday’s sprints, Leclair led the final from the start and narrowly edged Loewen at the finish line. Williams completed the race in third place.
“I feel great,” Leclair said, after her opening victory. “I’m happy with my form, the conditions were super fast (and) the skis were super fast.
“I’m definitely not in peak form, which will be more in early January, I hope. But it definitely bodes well for the rest of the season.”
Julian Smith of Georgian Bay Nordic and the National Team Development Centre in Thunder Bay also was a double winner. He won the men’s 1.4-kilometre sprint and the 15-kilometre interval-start classic race in 35:21.3 with Pierre Grall-Johnson of Nakkertok Nordic in close range.
Grall-Johnson, who also attends the National Team Development Centre in Thunder Bay, placed third in the sprint, and was second in the 6×2.5-kilometre classic in 35:25.9. Mats Halvorsen of Nakkertok was sixth in 36:45.7.
“Good race (Sunday), despite a little crash early in the race,” Grall-Johnson said. “I had a good rhythm and was happy that Julian and I had a good battle to decide the top of the podium.”
Guillaume Pelchat of Pembroke Nordic and the National Team Development Centre in Thunder Bay won the men’s junior sprint and placed second in the 15-kilometre classic in 36:37.4.
Audet also was a double champion, winning the women’s junior sprint and the 10-kilometre classic in 28:31.1.
In the women’s U18 category, Clara Hegan of Nakkertok was at the top of the class in the women’s one-kilometre challenge and the five-kilometre classic in 14:35.7.
IVANIE BLONDIN, ISABELLE WEIDEMANN WIN WORLD CUP TITLE
Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann, both of Ottawa, and Valerie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., are the World Cup champions in women’s team pursuit, after winning their third consecutive, long-track speed skating race in that discipline in Calgary.
Blondin, Weidemann and Maltais posted a time of 2:52.067 to edge Japan at 2:52.892, and China at 2:58.428. They won all three World Cup women’s team pursuit races for Canada this season.
“We’re really excited,” Weidemann said. “It was a clean race today. We wanted to go out and skate really smooth and make sure that we stayed together. We accomplished that mission.
“I think we were a little less nervous than last weekend and really fueled by the crowd here in Calgary. Everybody’s family was here to watch us, which made this even more exciting.”
Blondin placed second in the women’s mass start race and is pursuing a second World Cup title with one race remaining on the schedule. She trailed race winner Francesca Lollobrigida of Italy by two-tenths of a second, but remains in first place in the overall World Cup standings ahead of Lollabrigida, 492-458 points.
In her other races, Blondin was eighth in the 1,500 metres (1:53.464) and 14th in the 3,000 metres (4:01.860).
Weidemann skated a personal-best 3:55.334 to place second in the women’s 3,000 metres and strengthened her lead in the World Cup long-distance category. She leads with 205 points, while Norway’s Ragne Wiklund, 182, is second and The Netherlands’ Irene Schouten and Lollobrigida, 180, are tied for third, with one race remaining.
In the 1,500 metres, Weidemann was 11th in 1:54.335, which was 0.015 seconds off her personal best.
Vincent De Haitre of Cumberland was 17th and the fourth Canadian in the men’s 1,000-metre A-division race in 1:08.212, and 10th in the 1,500-metre B race in 1:45.342.
GO’s ASHLEY McMILLAN, REGAN RATHWELL PROMINENT IN POOL
Greater Ottawa Kingfish Swim Club’s Ashley McMillan and Regan Rathwell combined for seven gold and four silver medals at the Ontario Junior (18-and-under) International short-course swim meet in Toronto.
McMillan produced six gold-medal performances and broke two Canadian age-group, two Ontario and two meet records in the process. Rathwell battled McMillian in her first three finals and placed a close second each time before finishing with four silver medals and one gold.
Swimming Canada recently named McMillan and Rathwell to its High Performance Centre – Ontario team in Toronto.
McMillan won the 50-, 100- and 200-metre breaststroke finals in respective times of 31.16, 1:06.03 (national age-group record), and 2:23.97 (17-year-old Ontario record). In the backstroke, she was first over 50 metres in 26.71 (17-year-old Ontario record), and 100 metres in 56.90 (national age-group and meet records). She also won the 200-metre individual medley in 2:06.57 (meet record).
Rathwell was runner-up in the 100-metre breaststroke (1:07.17), 50-metre backstroke (26.81), 100-metre backstroke (57.76) and 50-metre freestyle (25.45) before winning the 200-metre backstroke (2:04.17, meet record).
Bronze medals were won by Megan Wheeler, women’s 400-metre individual medley (4:42.05) and 200-metre backstroke (2:09.83); Julie Brousseau, women’s 200-metre breaststroke (2:30.00); and Breckin Gormley, women’s 100-metre butterfly (1:00.09), all Nepean Kanata Barracudas swimmers; Alex Strople, men’s 400-metre individual medley (4:23.54) and Colin Shearer, men’s 200-metre individual medley (2:02.89), both Ottawa Swim Club; and Danika Ethier, women’s 100-metre breaststroke (1:09.45), Greater Ottawa.
BRYAN COCHRANE RINK PLACES SECOND AT CANADIAN SENIORS
The Everest Canadian men’s senior curling championship belonged to Wade White’s undefeated Alberta rink, but Bryan Cochrane of Ontario’s Russell Curling Club pushed him to the final end of the gold-medal match in Sault Ste. Marie, ON.
White, Barry Chwedoruk, Dan Holowaychuk and George White of the Lac La Biche Curling Club scored one in the eighth and final end to eke out a 4-3 win over Cochrane in the title-deciding game.
Both skips are familiar with high-level success at the seniors’ level. Cochrane was the 2018 Canadian and 2019 world champion, while White was the best in Canada in 2017 and the world in 2018.
White placed first in pool B at 6-0 and improved to 10-0 after another four matches in the championship pool. Cochrane, who lost 10-3 to White in preliminary play, was second in pool B at 5-1 and second after the championship pool at 9-1.
In the semifinals, White defeated Darrell McKee of Saskatchewan 11-2 and Cochrane downed Quebec’s Francois Roberge 8-4.
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.