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Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games Day 13: Injured Leo Wallner hopes for more than just medals

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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, Charlie Pinkerton, Mark Colley & Adamo Marinelli

Leo Wallner didn’t come to the Canada Summer Games expecting a medal — he just wanted to compete.

The 18-year-old from the Ottawa Lions pulled his hamstring three weeks ago and spent the time since doing physiotherapy.

He didn’t finish in the men’s decathlon, tapping out of the hurdles — the event he originally pulled his hamstring in. He also missed his event’s pole vault and 1500-metre race. But he said he wanted to do everything he could to compete at the Games.

“If it wasn’t for the Summer Games and this great experience, I would not be here,” Wallner said Tuesday. “I would’ve ended as soon as it happened.”

On Tuesday, Wallner finished the 100-metre dash a second off his season best and tweaked his hamstring in the long jump. Shot put and high jump went relatively well before Wallner fell far behind his normal time in the 400-metre.

But that doesn’t change what he’s taking away from this experience.

Leo Wallner finishes the 400-metre race on Tuesday. [Photo by Mark Colley]

“I’m thrilled being able to compete. It means the world to me,” he said. “It’s a great experience. Everything about it. The seriousness of it, between the call room, the warmup track, all the officials, you have all the meals, you have the dorms — it’s like an international experience.”

Wallner competed in track through school before joining the Lions at the suggestion of his uncle. The Canada Games were only his third decathlon — his first was a “disaster,” then he qualified for the Games by winning his second at the summer trials.

He’s hoping to treat these Games as a learning experience. Since track is a U25 category and Wallner is only 18, he wants to return at the 2025 Games in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Wallner is headed to Western University this fall, where he’ll study chemical engineering and run for the track team. He considered attending Queen’s University, but ultimately ruled it out. The University of Ottawa has a track and field team but it is run through the Ottawa Lions, which Wallner already trains with and Wallner wants to branch out.

“If I stayed in Ottawa, it’d pretty much be continuing my training now,” Wallner said. “It’s great training — the Ottawa Lions is a great club, same with Ottawa Gee-Gees — but I thought why not spread the wings a little and try a new atmosphere.”

Wallner said there’s not much else in his life besides track. He used to skateboard, but decided with his coach that it was too dangerous.

“All I do is 12 hours a day, I’m just living the track life,” Wallner said.

Ontario rowing easily wins heat, advances to final

Aidan Hembruff and the Ontario eight coxswain rowing team didn’t race against their stiffest competition on Wednesday, but they certainly saw the British Columbia team dominate their opponents in a separate heat.

Ontario is familiar with team B.C. Hembruff, a 19-year-old who competes with the Ottawa Rowing Club, was teammates with some of the B.C. crew during the U23 world championships in Italy last month. Even after Ontario cruised past its opponents, winning its heat by more than 20 seconds on Wednesday, B.C. set the pace in heat two with a finish that was three seconds faster than Ontario.

By finishing first in their respective heats, both are guaranteed a spot in the final at noon Saturday. It will be a clash that will have Team Ontario “burying itself,” to borrow a rowing term. That’s what Hembruff did at worlds.

“Our final race, I came into that wanting to bury myself, as some of the guys put it,” Hembruff said. “By the end of the race, I could not have taken another stroke. So even though we didn’t get a medal … I was happy with my performance.”

He didn’t do that Wednesday, though. Rowing far ahead of Saskatechwan and Quebec, Hembruff said the team raced hard from start to finish but wasn’t pressured to go as fast as possible by another boat right behind them.

“Had we had another boat, like the B.C. eight … beside us and they were really pushing us to the line, I think that’s kind of the point where you reach where you’re really putting everything in,” Hembruff explained.

The Ontario eight with coxswain rowing team races during heat one on Wednesday. [Photo by Mark Colley]

That might explain why time-wise, Ontario finished first in its heat but behind B.C. and Alberta.

Going into Saturday’s final, Hembruff said the team is “confident but cautious.”

“We don’t want to go in with a mindset that we’re gonna crush everyone, because then if you start the race and you’re even with another team, you get demoralized quickly,” Hembruff said.

Hembruff, who is also competing in the four today at 9:40 a.m., is a second-year mechanical engineering student at Western University. He said there’s a lot of people on the team who are engineers.

“Those two kind of go hand-in-hand,” he said, explaining that engineers learn how to be more organized and push themselves through their program. It teaches time management which helps athletes efficiently divide time between training and education.

Hembruff might pursue a master’s, although he’s not sure yet. For now, his ultimate goal is making it to the Olympics.

“Paris is a bit of a stretch, just because it’s so close and I’m so young, so realistically, 2028,” Hembruff said.

Box lacrosse keeps rolling with big performances from Belair, Lubiniecki

The Games couldn’t have started any better for the Ontario men’s box lacrosse team. After defeating British Columbia 8-3 in the opening game on Tuesday, Ontario rolled to an easy 12-2 victory over Alberta yesterday thanks to big performances from Gloucester Griffins athletes Julien Belair and Hunter Lubiniecki.

After chipping in a goal and an assist on Monday, Belair doubled his output against Alberta with two goals and two assists. Both assists were on goals scored by fellow Griffins — the first by Lubiniecki and the second by Tristan Caldwell.

Lubiniecki also had two goals and two assists after contributing an assist on Monday. All told, Ottawa athletes played a role in half of Ontario’s goals against Alberta.

Ottawa’s Julien Belair is seen during Ontario’s game against Alberta. [Photo by Mark Colley]

“We grew up together. We’ve been playing since we were young,” Belair said. “Now, just making Team Ontario, being able to show up for our province, it’s a dream come true.”

Despite taking a 10-point lead with nearly 10 minutes left in the game, Ontario continued to play aggressively. Their coach yelled directions from the bench until the final buzzer.

“Coach always says, it doesn’t matter how much you’re up by,” Belair said. “Just keep scoring, because you never know what’s going to happen.”

The Ontario women’s box lacrosse team knows this first-hand. They finished pool play in a three-way tie with Alberta and British Columbia, requiring a tiebreaker of goals for and against to break the stalemate. It went Ontario’s way, giving them top seeding in the quarterfinals. Ontario would go on to win gold.

Knowing this, the men’s team will have to be aggressive and try to score as many times as possible when they play their final game of pool play today at 2 p.m. against Nova Scotia.

Gold keeps coming for Maren Bradley

After cleaning up in canoe-kayak on Tuesday, Ottawa athletes showed their muscle again by winning another six medals, including two more gold for Rideau Canoe Club’s Maren Bradley. Bradley had already won gold on Tuesday but added two more with wins in the K2 500-metre and K1 1000-metre race.

Matt O’Neill won silver in the men’s C1 1000-metre race, while Amelia Wojtyk took home silver in the women’s C1 1000-metre race. Wojtyk also won bronze in the IC4 500-metre event alongside her sister, Zoe. O’Neill and Ydris Hunter teamed up to win another silver in the C2 500-metre race.

The Ontario women’s volleyball team started the Games with an easy 3-0 win over Nova Scotia and followed it up yesterday with a 3-1 win over Quebec. Ottawa’s Audrey Goddard, Victoria Potvin and Kate Lamothe will face Manitoba at 4 p.m. today to wrap up pool play and try to get a first place finish heading into the playoffs.

In sailing, Aethan Cubitt of the Britannia Yacht Club finished sixth in the first of eight single-handed laser races, while diver Audrée Howes also finished sixth in the preliminary round of women’s platform.

The day ahead

After taking home gold in the individual time trial, cyclist Lucy Hempstead will be vying for another in the women’s road race at 10 a.m today. The Ontario women’s soccer team will also be looking to build off a strong start to the Games, as they face PEI at 7:30 p.m. after demolishing the Yukon 18-0.

Ottawa will have more medal opportunities in canoe-kayak, as well as diving.

You can follow all the action today via live stream at

At the track, Ottawa Lions athlete David Adeleye finished second overall in 110-metre hurdles qualification. Doyin Ogunremi helped Ontario to a second-place finish in its heat of the women’s 4×400-metre relay, while Luca Nicoletti and David Moulongou helped the men’s team to the same result in the same event.

(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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