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Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games Day 9: Rebound day for bronze medallist basketball & tennis players

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(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

A silver medal of course lands you a step higher on the podium than the bronze, but in team sports competitions, the bronze medallists almost always look happier than those with silver.

That’s because the athletes on step 2 of the podium usually “lose the silver” (they’ll have just tasted defeat, with the bitter feeling lingering that they’d just missed earning gold), while the team on step 3 will have won a match for bronze and be glad to have regained that sweet winning feeling, dulling the earlier pain of their loss in the semi-final.

Achol Akot. Photo: Dan Plouffe

The smiles had indeed returned for five Ottawa athletes who helped Team Ontario win bronze medals in female basketball and mixed tennis on Saturday afternoon at the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.

Achol Akot, Catrina Garvey and Jessica Wangolo lost their shot at a national title with their hard-fought 80-71 defeat to eventual champion Alberta in Friday night’s semi-final, but the Capital Courts Academy hoopsters said they didn’t have trouble finding motivation for the bronze medal match against Quebec.

“I feel like after we got off the bus, we kind of left our emotions behind and we focused on getting the bronze,” highlighted Garvey, a 17-year-old guard who spent a decade as a gymnast before turning her attention to the hardwood.

Catrina Garvey. Photo: Dan Plouffe

“It’s great (to win the bronze),” echoed Akot, a smooth yet tough 18-year-old 6-foot forward. “We didn’t want to leave here with nothing. Even though it wasn’t our goal – we were planning to get gold – at least we’re leaving with something in our hands. And hopefully in the years that follow, we’ll get gold again.”

For Wangolo, the bronze was her second national medal within a week. She earned a Canadian U17 girls’ gold the previous Saturday in Sherbrooke with a younger edition of Team Ontario, and then booted it down to Niagara to take part in her team’s six Canada Games matches in six days.

“I’m a little tired now, but it’s not like I wasn’t going to go,” underlined the 17-year-old guard who moonlights as one of the city’s fastest high school track-and-field sprinters on occasion. “I wanted to come here and play against older people. I always like the competition.”

Jessica Wangolo. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Competitive fire is most definitely not in short supply among the CCA trio who won an Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association championship this past spring, driven in part by a desire to showcase sometimes-overlooked Ottawa as a true hub of hoops talent.

“Capital Courts is a really tough program,” highlighted Achol Akot, who’s headed into her senior year at Cairine Wilson Secondary School with her eye on an NCAA scholarship. “It’s a team that has the best players in the country. That’s demonstrated in our championship and how there’s three girls on the national team.”

Achol Akol. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Asked by the Ottawa Sports Pages’ Dan Plouffe how much time they spend together regularly, all three players answered in unison, “ALL THE TIME!”, sporting giant smiles and pausing the interview for a quick group hug.

“They’re so funny. I love all their personalities. They’re all my best friends. It’s so fun to be around them,” Akol indicated, before joking that a few days off after they’ve been together so much can be a good break too.

Even living together in the Canada Games athletes’ village wasn’t new for the trio. In January when Ontario went back into lockdown, they escaped to train with their Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team (which competes in the U.S.) in Fort Erie while living in an Airbnb rental.

“We all shared the same room together, so we were kind of used to it,” noted Wangolo.

A little interlude to finish up our basketball coverage: If you’re wondering how many points each of them scored and how many minutes they played, well, so are we! Apologies for our low IQ on the James Naismith-era scoresheet, but we’ve gone soft in our years of reading boxscores, so please forgive us if we haven’t computed the stats correctly from the image to your right, but here’s our best guess at what went down:

It looks like Garvey had the hot hand early, scoring seven of her eight points in the first quarter to spring Ontario to a 17-8 lead, while Akot earned six points from her hard work in the paint, and Wangolo knocked down a three-pointer as Ontario ran away in the fourth quarter, with White outscoring Blue 20-5 in the final frame en route to a 57-36 victory. (How’d we do?)

Injury slows Anna-Raphaëlle Serghi in Canada Games competition, but will do little to impede her rise on the national/international tennis scene

Ray Xie. Photo: Dan Plouffe

By the time Ottawa’s Ray Xie and Anna-Raphaëlle Serghi took to the court for their respective male and female doubles matches on Saturday in Niagara-on-the-Lake, they already had their bronze medals in the bag.

Their Ontario teammates swept all four of their earlier singles matches to clinch their series victory over Alberta, making Xie and Serghi’s final matches of the Canada Summer Games more like exhibitions than high-stakes battles for the bronze.

That suited Serghi just fine since she’s been hampered by a thigh injury for the past month. The 15-year-old Carleton Tennis Centre athlete hurt it again in her first match at Canada Games and was only able to play doubles the rest of the way. She withdrew from several earlier matches when the outcome of the team event had already been decided.

“It happens at this level,” shrugged Serghi, who can still play and practice through her ailment, but struggles to go full out. “You try to avoid (injuries), but now all I can do is try my best to get better.”

Serghi had initially planned to compete in Tennis Canada’s U18 outdoor junior nationals, which start today in Mississauga, but instead she’ll now take time to rest and recover in advance of several International Tennis Federation tournaments in Quebec in September.

Earlier this year, Serghi won Canadian championships indoors at both the U16 and U18 levels. She won every set in her six U16 matches, and won six more in the U18 tournament despite entering that competition unseeded.

“It was the best feeling – very rewarding,” recounted Serghi. “I was just very proud of myself for all the hard work and hours I put in. It was all worth it.”

Anna-Raphaëlle Serghi. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Serghi plays tennis six days a week and has developed a strong passion for the sport to fuel her rise.

“My whole life is pretty much tennis and school. That’s about it,” smiled Serghi, then explaining some of her favourite aspects of the sport, such as “when you’re working on a specific shot and you finally get it the way you wanted to.

“Or when you build up a really nice point, and you hit that last shot, it just feels really great. And then after a really tough battle, when you beat a really good player, it’s just the best.”

Serghi said her parents and her coach, Nick Mook Sang, are the biggest reasons she’s been able to excel in the sport.

“(Mook Sang) has been my coach since age 8 or 9. He’s taught me my whole journey,” Serghi highlighted. “And my parents are always driving me to practices, the tournaments, helping me with physio, with fitness – everything.

“I couldn’t have done it without them.”

The Canada Games were “a really cool experience” to get to compete as a team in tennis, and also be part of a bigger team across many sports, indicated Serghi, who got to watch fellow Ottawa bronze medallist Rachel Cullum and Team Ontario compete in rugby sevens, along with beach volleyball and wrestling.

“It’s definitely kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Serghi added. “But hopefully I get to the Olympics one day and feel it again.”

Ray Xie. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Xie also savoured the opportunity to participate in a team competition for the first time in his career.

“It’s really fun,” signalled the U18 indoor provincial champion. “You feel like you definitely have to give it your all every time you play a match. You don’t want to let your team down. And after your matches, you go support and cheer on all your team. The team atmosphere is a big highlight for sure.”

Xie is dialling back his pursuit of tennis a little these days in favour of a focus on academics, though the Earl of March Secondary School grad does plan to play for the University of Western Ontario while studying to become a medical doctor.

Week 1 complete, Week 2 coming soon

So this concludes our coverage of the first week of the Canada Summer Games, but stay tuned, there’s lots more to come! As a new set of athletes moves into the athletes’ village in Niagara, 11 sports will kick off their Canada Games competition on Tuesday.

The Ottawa Sports Pages is looking forward to following local athletes set to take part in athletics (track-and-field), male box lacrosse, canoe-kayak, cycling, diving, rowing, sailing, female soccer and indoor volleyball for segment 2 of our Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games coverage.

(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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