(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 & Martin Cleary
The packed stands were pounding, and players’ and spectators’ hearts with it, as host Team Ontario nursed a 2-1 lead in the championship game’s dying minutes of the inaugural Canada Summer Games female box lacrosse tournament.
It was the highest-stakes moment of Tristan Thompson’s lacrosse career, and as one of Team Ontario’s key defenders, she was thrown out there in the middle of it, and she couldn’t have been any more energized by the experience.
“I don’t think there’s any words to describe it,” Thompson yelled amid celebrations after the final buzzer sounded to confirm the host province’s victory over B.C. “I’m so excited that we brought home the gold.”
Thompson’s job for Ontario is to defend hard, get the ball back in her team’s possession, and then high-tail it to the bench. For her to pass the ball up in the sequence that led to Stella Burke’s game-winning goal, and to be on the floor defending in the final seconds of an ultra-low-scoring game – that’s about as storybook as it could be for the 6-foot, 1-inch Nepean Knights/Gloucester Griffins product.
“We’ve made history,” underlined Thompson, who lit the flame at Parliament Hill back in June to start the Canada Games torch relay en route to Niagara. “We practiced so long for this goal, and to actually have the opportunity to play in the gold medal game, and of course getting the outcome that we wanted too, it’s just like a dream.”
Ontario opened the tournament with 5-0 and 10-2 victories over B.C. and Nova Scotia before falling 4-2 to Alberta to conclude pool play. Ontario then dominated Saskatchewan 11-0 in their quarter-final and topped Nova Scotia 7-2 to advance to the final with B.C.
Never side gave an inch in the gold medal game, and it wasn’t until very late in the second period that Ontario got on the scoreboard. B.C. answered back to start the third, but Burke scored what proved to be the winning goal with 7:34 left.
It was a long-awaited triumph for Thompson and Team Ontario, who had to wait extra long for their shot at redemption after losing to B.C. by a goal in the bantam national championships three years ago.
The home crowd cheered the victory loud and proud, and Thompson received many messages from back home too, including her Nepean Wildcats junior women’s hockey team that was following along and encouraging her.
“I’ve had so many supporters, and I’m very grateful for it,” signalled the 15-year-old St. Mark Catholic High School student.
Thompson’s gold caps a huge and historic week for local lacrosse overall, with youth titles and medals from the Ontario Lacrosse Festival, and the Nepean Knights’ first-ever Ontario Junior ‘B’ Lacrosse League championship, which they won on home court at Howard Darwin Arena Thursday night.
Silver doesn’t taste so sweet for local soccer players
Team Ontario allowed a goal for the first time in four contests in the Canada Games male soccer tournament, and before their gold medal match was complete, Team Quebec had found the back of the net three times to walk away with a shutout victory against the host province.
Ontario controlled possession for much of the match, but Quebec nonetheless created better scoring opportunities and rarely gave up any quality shooting opportunities back in their end.
“It’s tough. We were wanting to win gold, so it’s hard,” signalled West Ottawa Soccer Club product Jason Hartill, who played the full match in the central midfield.
“I’m not happy about (the silver medal),” echoed Ottawa South United product Joseph Daher, a fullback who played the full first half and a few minutes of the second.
While the sting of losing in front of a lively over-capacity home crowd will take a moment to fade, both Hartill and Daher have lots to be excited about in their soccer careers.
Once rivals on the local pitches, they’re now together with Toronto FC’s youth academy, with their eyes set on future professional careers.
Daher joined TFC about two years ago, though he returned home during COVID lockdowns and would practice with past teammates on abandoned turf fields at Hillcrest or Franco-Cité high schools.
“We’d just go back and forth, until we got kicked out,” snickered the 18-year-old.
Daher was born in Canada, but grew up in Ghana and also has Lebanese roots. He said he treasures experiences like representing Ontario on the national stage in part because of what Canada has offered his family.
“My dad lived in a war and he said he wants stability,” detailed the former St. Patrick Catholic High School student. “Now I want to play for Canada, with the youth national team first, and make it up step-by-step.”
Earning a professional contract with TFC’s second team is another next step Daher would like to take, as would Hartill, who joined TFC’s academy in early spring.
Hartill was spotted by TFC during a provincial team series and went for a week-long trial during March Break before being offered his spot.
“It was always my goal to join an academy, so it was really exciting when it finally happened,” recounted Hartill, who commuted to training each day from Kitchener (where he stayed with family) before at last moving into Toronto shortly before the Canada Games began.
Hartill, who won Ontario Player Development League east division and charity shield postseason titles with his West Ottawa Warriors U17 boys’ team last season, got himself ready for the professional academy environment by spending extra time training with Atlético Ottawa and OPSM Pro last season.
“It’s totally higher level (with TFC) than what I was playing. And that’s what I wanted to do – every day, we train,” the 18-year-old indicated. “We get a day off after a game, but other than that we’re training every day, so I’m getting a lot better.”
The level of play at the Canada Games was “very competitive” as well, he noted, and was a unique opportunity to get together and face off with players from across the country.
“Being in the athlete village with all the other other teams and getting to meet everyone from different provinces and different sports was really cool too,” Hartill added. “It was a really good experience.”
Swimmer Olivier Risk caps Games with second gold, third medal of Niagara 2022
Olivier Risk started and finished his Canada Summer Games the same way: with gold. The 16-year-old Ravens of Carleton Swim Club athlete opened the Games with a victory in the male 4×200-metre relay, and on the final day of swimming, he was golden again, winning his signature male open water race
The top-nine racers all arrived within nine seconds of one another, but Risk was fastest to the finish, completing the 3-kilometre Welland International Flatwater Centre course in 35 minutes and 35 seconds.
“It’s open water and it doesn’t matter about the time. You go only to place. It’s all about winning,” Risk highlighted in a pre-Games interview with High Achievers columnist Martin Cleary. “It’s not a different sport, but a different atmosphere. I like it because it’s not repetitive and you’re not doing flips at the end of the lane. You try to find someone to draft off of to save energy.”
The De La Salle high school student’s next major challenge will be the FINA world junior open-water championships, where he’ll represent Canada Sept. 1-4 in the Seychelles. But he’ll take with him many fond memories from the Canada Games, including a third medal – bronze from the male 200 m freestyle.
“The entire (experience) has been a highlight,” Risk told the Ottawa Sports Pages’ Dan Plouffe after his final race in the pool – the gruelling 1,500 m, which was held Thursday evening before his 9 a.m. open water swim yesterday. “Usually there are only three or four people here watching these meets, but here there are all kinds of people.”
Also completing his Canada Games competition schedule yesterday was mountain biker Xander Woodford in the male sprint event. The 17-year-old Ride with Rendall athlete advanced through his heat in second place to reach the semi-final, where he placed fourth to miss out on the medal heat by one place. Woodford, who earlier won a silver medal with Ontario in the team event, finished ninth overall out of the 30 entrants.
Local athletes will battle for bronze in the team sport competitions remaining on the week 1 calendar of the Canada Games following defeats in the semi-finals yesterday.
Capital Courts Academy players Achol Akot, Catrina Garvey and Jessica Wangolo tasted defeat for the first time in five female basketball matches. Ontario led after every quarter except for the last one in an 80-71 loss to Alberta. They’ll now play in the bronze medal match today at 1 p.m. against their neighbours from Quebec.
Ottawa’s Anna-Raphaëlle Serghi and women’s doubles partner Krzyzak fell just short of forcing a deciding mixed doubles contest in the tennis mixed team event. They fell 6-7 (3), 6-1, 4-6 to B.C. to drop Ontario’s series 4-2.
In the previous match, fellow Carleton Tennis Centre product Ray Xie and men’s doubles partner Stefan Simeunovic also lost, 6-7 (2), 3-6. Serghi, Xie and Team Ontario will be back in action today at 9 a.m. for their tie (series) with Alberta to determine the final podium position.
(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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