HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
In sports, if a match is deadlocked at the end of regulation time, officials will implement a tiebreaking system.
Officials of the Ottawa Sports Awards dinner don’t follow that overtime, shootout, tiebreaker philosophy. If there’s a tie in the voting for an award, there will be co-champions.
For the first time in voting history for the Female Athlete of the Year, there was a tie. In this case, former award winners and gifted long-track speed skaters Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann will share the top honour at the first in-person Ottawa Sports Awards dinner in almost three years.
At the 1994 dinner to honour the best in Ottawa amateur sports, cyclists Linda Jackson and Gord Fraser shared the Athlete of the Year award, during a time when the top honour was only given to one athlete. The male and female athlete of the year awards started in 2003.
The national capital’s top athletes and teams for 2021 as well as four lifetime award winners will be honoured June 16 in an outdoor, tented venue at the Canadian Golf and Country Club, which is just outside Ottawa in Ashton, ON. The dinner is expected to welcome between 150 and 220 athletes and guests.
After reviewing their international results for the second half of the 2020-21 season and the first half of their 2021-22 campaign, dinner officials decided to make Blondin and Weidemann co-winners of the Female Athlete of the Year award, which is named after speed skating great Kristina Groves.
Blondin and Weidemann joined Valérie Maltais to win five women’s team pursuit races during their 2021 races over two seasons.
The 2020-21 season was shortened to two World Cup stops in Heerenveen, The Netherlands, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and held between Jan. 21 to Feb. 13. Blondin had two silver-medal efforts in the mass start and was the World Cup runner-up in that discipline. Weidemann also was fifth and sixth in a pair of 3,000-metre races.
The first four World Cup races for the 2021-22 season were staged in November and December and Blondin was the mass start leader and Weidemann was first in the long-distance standings before the World Cup Final in March. At the last World Cup meet, Blondin dropped to second overall in the mass start standings, and Weidemann finished sixth overall for the combined 3,000- and 5,000-metre races.
Blondin had one win and two second-place results last fall in the mass start, while Weidemann produced three second-place finishes and one fourth in the long-distance races.
At the 2021 world championships in Heerenveen in February, Blondin and Weidemann helped Canada to a silver medal in the team pursuit. Individually, Blondin was second in the mass start, while Weidemann was fifth in the 5,000 metres and sixth over 3,000 metres.
On Thursday, Speed Skating Canada announced Blondin and Weidemann have returned to the national team for the 2022-23 season. Jake Weidemann, the brother of Isabelle, is a member of the national long-track NextGen team.
The Ottawa Sports Awards’ Male Athlete of the Year is hockey player Mason McTavish. In 2021, the Carp resident was the assistant captain for Team Canada, which won the world U18 hockey championship. He played a significant role with five goals and six assists.
McTavish was later selected third overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Darlene Joseph and Glenroy Gilbert were named the respective Female and Male Coaches of the Year. The Teams of the Year were the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club’s women’s U18 cross-country running team and the sailing duo of Christian Voyer and Luke Strickland.
Joseph, the director of figure skating at the Gloucester Skating Club, coached David Shteyngart to novice men’s singles gold medals at Skate Canada Challenge and Skate Ontario Sectionals and novice women’s singles skater Reese Rose to second at sectionals.
She also guided the novice pairs team of Lilly Napier and Joshua Dore to a first-place finish at the Quebec championship and second at Skate Canada Challenge. All four athletes qualified for the 2022 Canadian championships. The Coaches Association of Ontario also named Joseph the winner of the Andy Higgins Lifetime Achievement Award.
For the fourth time in his track and field career, Gilbert was named the Male Coach of the Year. He also won the award in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Gilbert was the head coach of Canada’s highly successful athletics team at the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.
Canada won six medals and placed fifth in the overall athletics medal standings in Gilbert’s first year as Olympic head coach.
The Ottawa Lions women’s U18 team won the Ontario and Canadian cross-country running team gold medals. Their national title came in Ottawa on a snowy Saturday in November at Wesley Clover Parks.
Amelia Van Brabant, Olivia Baggley, Cara MacDonald and Lauren Alexander combined to win the national title by a one-point margin over the University of Toronto Track Club. The Lions team of Van Brabant, Baggley, MacDonald and Gillian Porter earned the Ontario girls’ U18 title. Van Brabant also was the provincial individual champion.
By winning the Sail Canada C420 youth national championship and the i420 youth Canadian title, Christian Voyer and Luke Strickland were named to represent Canada at the 2021 world youth sailing championships. They finished 20th at the worlds in Mussanah, Oman.
The Ottawa Sports Awards Dinner also will present Lifetime Achievement honours to four dedicated individuals:
· Dave Mallory, volunteer/administrator – Mallory has been an invaluable member of the Nakkertok Ski Club family for more than 40 years as a coach, trail groomer and equipment serviceman;
· John Reid, technical official – For more than 20 years with Hockey Eastern Ontario, Reid has promoted the development of officials, served as an on-ice official and hockey executive member, was the District 9 referee in chief for Gloucester and is now the HEO referee in chief;
· Dominic Soong, coach – A well respected technical coach, Soong has been an integral part of Ottawa’s badminton scene, having coached athletes at all levels, including the Olympics;
· Raz El-Asmar, Mayor’s Cup for outstanding contribution to sport in Ottawa – Co-founder of the FC Capital United Soccer Club, El-Asmar has committed the past 30 years to long-term player development, working at the grassroots level and teaching athletes all aspects of the game.
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.
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