By Martin Cleary
It will be a virtual celebration for the male and female athletes of the year, but many recent local Olympians and Paralympians will be there live as the Ottawa Sports Awards Dinner returns for its belated 2021 edition Thursday evening.
The dinner, which started in 1953, will take place under the outdoor tent at the Canadian Golf and Country Club. It will be the first time Canada’s largest amateur sports awards dinner will be held outdoors.
The top local athletes in 46 different sports, 13 outstanding teams, six major award winners, four lifetime achievement award and one special recognition recipients will all be honoured at the event.
Expected in the audience are Tokyo Olympian Alicia Brown (athletics), Tokyo Paralympian Patrice Dagenais (wheelchair rugby), Beijing Olympians Lisa Weagle (curling) and Mike Evelyn (bobsleigh), and Beijing Paralympian Tyrone Henry (para hockey).
Long-track speed skaters Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann have been named co-winners of the Kristina Groves female athlete of the year trophy, while hockey player Mason McTavish will stand alone as the male athlete of the year.
During the 2021 portions of their International Skating Union World Cup speed skating seasons, Blondin and Weidemann joined Valérie Maltais to win five team pursuit gold medals and one silver.
Blondin also was the World Cup mass start champion, while Weidemann was the World Cup long-distance event leader until the final weekend.
McTavish was named to the Canadian men’s hockey team for the International Ice Hockey Federation U18 hockey championships and appointed an alternate captain. He was a key figure in helping Canada win the gold medal, scoring five goals and adding six assists.
Last July, he was selected third overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Ducks. He played the opening three games in the 2021-22 NHL season for the Ducks and scored his first goal in his professional debut against the Winnipeg Jets.
McTavish also played five games for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes and counted six goals and one assist before joining Canada’s U20 team for the short-lived world junior hockey championship. In his first two games at the world juniors, he scored three goals and added two assists.
Athletics Canada’s head coach Glenroy Gilbert has been selected male coach of the year for a fifth time dating back to 2008, while figure skating’s Darlene Joseph is the female coach of the year for the first time.
The Ottawa Lions girls’ U18 cross-country running squad is the female team of the year, and Nepean Sailing Club athletes Christian Voyer and Luke Strickland are the male team of the year.
The dinner also will honour four dedicated individuals with lifetime achievement awards: soccer’s Raz El-Asmar (Mayor’s Cup), badminton’s Dominic Soong (coach), nordic skiing’s Dave Mallory (volunteer) and hockey’s John Reid (official).
Historian Joe McLean will receive a special recognition award for his nearly 40 years involved with the Ottawa golf scene, which includes his current roles with the Ottawa Valley Golf Association and Flagstick magazine.
The dinner also will honour top athletes in 46 individual sports and 13 outstanding teams. Seventeen individual winners were members of Canada’s Olympic or Paralympic teams in Tokyo and Beijing.
The complete list of individual sport and team winners can be found on the Ottawa Sports Awards’ website.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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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