(This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.)
By Dan Plouffe & Mark Colley
Ottawa’s Julie Brousseau won three medals in just over an hour on the final day of the Canada Summer Games swimming competition Thursday evening at Brock University, concluding a five-day journey that’s officially landed the 16-year-old in the record books.
Brousseau’s 11-medal total matched 2017 Team Ontario swimmer Hanna Henderson’s haul, and also tied the Mississauga athlete’s record for most gold medals won by a female athlete at Canada Games with six.
“It’s pretty cool to medal again for Team Ontario. I’m just super happy for myself. It’s very exciting,” highlighted Brousseau, who was unsure what she’ll do with her six gold, one silver, and four bronze medals – let alone the 11 teddy bears that came as prizes too.
“Maybe I’ll give them to my family, I don’t know,” smiled the Nepean High School student. “Anyone who wants one can have one.”
Brousseau started her historic night by outpacing the field by over three seconds to win the female 200-metre individual medley in a Canada Games-record time of 2:14.93. She then hit the podium in the 50 m freestyle with just two-hundredths of a second to spare in front of the fourth-place finisher in 26.67 seconds.
And finally, Brousseau came back less than 15 minutes later to race the 4×100 m mixed relay alongside fellow Ottawa swimmer Preston McMann. The Nepean-Kanata Barracudas athletes swam the second and third legs to give Ontario the lead, and ultimately took home bronze.
McMann also endured the challenge of racing the relay just nine minutes after earning a 50 m free bronze medal by a fingernail – Alberta and Quebec swimmers both touched in at 24.52, just behind McMann in 24.51.
“It’s definitely hard,” signalled McMann, who set a new personal-best time in the 50 free. “Not something anyone wants to do, coming into the final session having no warm-down in between, but I think we both powered through it well.”
McMann said it was a “great end to the meet” to get to race in a relay alongside Team Ontario swimmers who used to always be his rivals.
“Being here at the pool, it’s been crazy,” added the Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School student. “We’ve all been cheering for each other and bonding as a team together here. It’s just incredible.”
With his season complete, McMann planned to head to the cafeteria and enjoy some celebratory ice cream. Brousseau, meanwhile, is headed to Hawaii, though that’ll be a business trip to represent Canada at the Aug. 24-27 Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Honolulu.
“This definitely helps me feel more confident after these races,” Brousseau indicated. “Jr. Pan Pacs are just a few weeks away, so I know that I’m strong and ready.”
In other Ottawa swimming results, Olivier Risk said he started hurting halfway through his male 1,500 m endurance test, and fell short of his desired sub-16-minute target, placing fourth in 16:06.27. While the meet in the pool is complete, Risk will be up early for today’s 9 a.m. 3,000 m open water swim competition – the event he’ll later race at the FINA world junior open-water championships Sept. 1-4 in the Seychelles.
Katie Xu placed fifth in the female Special Olympics 50 m freestyle to miss the podium for the first time in her five races. The Special Olympics world-champion figure skater previously won a gold, a silver and two bronze swim medals at these Canada Games.
Gaël Shindano placed sixth in the male Special Olympics 50 m freestyle, as did Nicholas Scott in the male para multi-class 200 m IM. Scott also placed 10th in the 50 m free, while McMann competed in the 50 m backstroke as well but did not advance through the heats.
Wrestler Seed-Desai turns tables to win another (potentially) historic gold
What a difference a day makes. On Wednesday, Ottawa wrestler Laila Seed-Desai lost a tight match to an opponent from Alberta 4-3, followed by a 10-0 mercy rule defeat to B.C.
In the blink of an eye Thursday, the 19-year-old National Capital Wrestling Club athlete earned revenge against B.C. with a pinfall about a minute into their female 44 kg semi-final, and then became Canada Games champion with another pin 37 seconds into her final bout with Saskatchewan.
“I’m just so thankful to even be here. (Wednesday) was such a rough day,” recalled Seed-Desai. “My mindset coming into (Thursday’s competition) was better. I told myself that I’m just gonna put it all out there, do what I can, and don’t hold back.”
With her quick work, Seed-Desai got to spend about as much time proudly parading around the mat draped in the Ontario flag as she did grappling.
“(The celebration) was such an adrenaline rush. I never even thought of doing something like that,” signalled Seed-Desai, who was cheered on by a noisy crowd from the host province. “It felt very surreal, but so cool that I got to do that.”
The Ottawa Sports Pages’ Dan Plouffe was able to dig a little to determine that Brousseau had indeed enjoyed a record-tying performance at the Games, but this next potentially groundbreaking feat we don’t think is really verifiable, so we’ll say Seed-Desai was probably the first Canada Games individual champion to wear a hijab while wrestling her way to gold.
The Canterbury High School grad started wearing her hijab in competition about a year ago.
“It’s been a challenge,” recounted Seed-Desai, whose mother owns a third-degree black belt in jiujitsu. “It’s hard because I don’t see anyone like me. But the thing is, someone’s got to do it and somebody needs to make an example for girls like me. That was my goal. I wanted to be the face.”
Seed-Desai said she’s felt treated differently on occasion, though referees have never been a problem. She noted that weigh-ins can be unfair because she’ll be covered in more clothing than her competitors. At the Canada Games, Seed-Desai was able to weigh in separately with a female official, and other times she’s had weight reduced to account for the added clothing.
“But it’s still something that needs work, and they need to put it in the rulebook,” underlined the Carleton University cognitive science student. “Some people are just like, ‘Well, you chose to wear it, so this is how you gotta do things’ – that kind of attitude. It sucks, because there is a need for change in this sport.”
To give you an idea of how receptive the world’s wrestling powers generally are to change: women’s wrestling was only added to the Olympics in 2004, and the sport had to be expelled from the Olympics in 2013 (before ultimately being reinstated) in order to increase the number of women’s divisions from four when the men had 14 across freestyle and greco-roman.
“There are more girls getting pushed away from it because they want to cover a bit more or they’re not ready to wear a singlet,” Seed-Desai added. “If we start having more girls wearing the hijab and being more vocal, maybe more girls will join the sport.”
One place Seed-Desai has felt right at home is with her Ontario teammates, with whom she won a silver medal in the team competition (which also served as a qualifier for the individual medal rounds).
“The other girls have been so amazing,” underlined Seed-Desai, who was competing in her first national event since 2019 and won her first Canadian medals. “I’m so thankful to be on that team with all these amazing athletes.”
Seed-Desai’s next goal is to “bulk up a bit” because the women’s lightweight division for university and senior-level competition is 50 kg (and she’s currently in the 44 kg class).
Seed-Desai “got smushed” in her open university competitions as an undersized rookie Raven this season, though she remembers losing every match 10-0 in Grade 9 as well before upping her game with NCWC.
“I just want to go as far as I possibly can in wrestling,” noted the 2020 OFSAA provincial high school bronze medallist. “I love competing and I love this sport.”
National Capital wrestler still standing after shoulder dislocations – atop the podium
Kai Harada loves wrestling too, though listen to him list off the pile of injuries he’s accumulated in recent competitions and you have to wonder how on earth that’s possible.
“In the trials to get here, I actually tore my left meniscus, and I broke my elbow in the first half of the finals,” detailed the NCWC athlete, who explained Wednesday that he also dislocated his shoulder two weeks ago and had it pop out again mid-match during the team competition.
“I don’t often go to competition healthy,” he shrugged.
On Thursday, Harada withstood a draining male 65 kg semi-final to win 7-4 over an opponent from PEI, and then scored a pinfall 2:17 into his championship match with B.C.
The 18-year-old survived both matches with his shoulder intact, only to dislocate it while flipping the Ontario flag over his head in celebration.
Harada said he was pleased to win male team gold the day before, but “now that I’ve completed both, I feel way more fulfilled and just happy,” he highlighted. “It’s my first national title – two now, back-to-back. It’s really, really exciting.”
While accumulating injury after injury, Harada said the thought of withdrawing did occur to him, but “to be honest, the adrenaline can really carry you a long way,” noted the dual Japanese-Canadian citizen who first took up combat sports as a preteen in Japan. “To strive and want to be better and improve, it just always continues.”
Harada’s triumph comes at a time when he’s also found an edge in his battle with mental health in recent years.
“Mental health can be something that’s more painful than all those (injuries) combined,” he underlined. “It’s an important issue for everyone, no matter how tough you think you are.”
There wasn’t anything specific that triggered Harada’s struggles, though he recognized that he needed help and was eventually diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
“Just like in wrestling, whenever you have a problem, you just have to keep on pressing and keep looking for a way out,” Harada indicated. “It’s been a long road, but I’m really thankful for everyone that’s helped – my coach, Chris Schrauwen, my family, friends and everyone who have all helped me get to this point.”
Harada also gave a nod to Team Ontario staff, event organizers, and the medical team that’s got to know him well in recent days.
“Everything combined just made it a great experience and allowed me to be here,” added Harada, who graduated from Lester B. Pearson Catholic High School after attending Colonel By Secondary School prior to his senior year.
Harada will now have several months to heal up before his next competition. He’ll soon begin studying media and communications at Carleton University, where he’ll also wrestle.
In the female 79 kg competition, Lilah Fraser of Pathway Wrestling Club experienced the opposite side of “what a difference a day makes.”
After pinning every one of her six opponents on Day 1 & 2 en route to a silver medal in the female team competition, Fraser looked stunned when she got pinned herself in her semi-final against Saskatchewan, and she was furious after falling 8-3 to Alberta in her bronze medal match.
Ontario secures lacrosse & soccer medals, tennis & basketball into semis
Ottawa’s Tristan Thompson and Team Ontario were outshooting Nova Scotia 21-3 when the Maritimers scored the first goal of their female box lacrosse semi-final contest, but Ontario finally found the back of the net exactly halfway through the match and never looked back.
The host province scored seven times in total in the second half en route to a 7-2 final. The win guaranteed the Ontario girls a medal as they advanced to the inaugural Canada Summer Games female lacrosse championship game, where they’ll meet B.C. today at 5 p.m.
The Ontario male soccer team also secured its place on the podium with a 2-0 semi-final victory over New Brunswick. West Ottawa Soccer Club 2021 provincial division champ Jason Hartill entered the game shortly before halftime as his squad earned its third consecutive clean sheet.
Hartill told the Sports Pages earlier in the Games that gold was undoubtedly the goal for Team Ontario, and they’ll now get that shot as they take on Quebec at 7 p.m.
Ontario cruised into the medal round of the tennis mixed team tournament with a 5-1 victory over Nova Scotia in the quarter-final round. Oakville’s Stefan Simeunovic and Ottawa’s Ray Xie contributed a 6-2, 6-4 men’s doubles victory to Ontario’s cause, while fellow Carleton Tennis Centre athlete Anna-Raphaëlle Serghi defaulted her women’s doubles match.
Since winning their women’s doubles match against B.C., Serghi and Ontario teammate Rachel Krzyzak have both defaulted each of their two following matches. Sorry, we’re not sure why that is, though the winner of the ties (team matches) had already been decided by the time Serghi’s scheduled matches came up. Also worth noting is that Tennis Canada’s U18 and U16 outdoor junior nationals run Aug. 14-19 and Aug. 20-25 in Mississauga and Milton, respectively, and Serghi was indoor champion in both those division earlier this year.
Ontario will now face B.C. in the semi-final that begins today at 3 p.m. for the chance to play in Saturday afternoon’s final.
The Ontario female basketball team had its closest match of four in the tournament so far against B.C. in the quarter-finals but nonetheless held a comfortable lead after each quarter en route to an 86-70 victory.
Ottawa members of the team include Jessica Wangolo, Catrina Garvey and Achol Akot – who earned rave reviews from past Team Canada junior player Kellie Ring of Ottawa in her first live look at the CCA star.
(Quick interlude from the “Ottawa’s such a little big city” files: Along with fellow Ottawa native Chris Séguin, Ring is helping lead the Canada Games Council’s communications efforts – when the pair first met, they discovered they grew up about 300 metres from one another and both attended St. Matthew Catholic High School.)
After playing the early-bird quarterfinal at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, Team Ontario basketball will now face Alberta in today’s 7:45 p.m. semi-final.
Fresh off a silver medal in the mountain bike male relay event Wednesday, Xander Woodford is the final Ottawa athlete scheduled to compete today in the 10:30 a.m. male sprint event.
Again, you can stream most events via https://niagara2022games.ca/watch . And we’ll look forward to telling you more about Ottawa’s latest medal wins tomorrow.
(This article was first sent to subscribers of the free Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games Daily Newsletter. Sign us to receive it below!)
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