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Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games Day 17: Ottawa athletes get gold in soccer, rowing on final day of Niagara 2022

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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

Winning a gold medal is an irreplicable feeling — but the Ottawa Rowing Club’s Aidan Hembruff has now experienced it twice.

The 19-year-old rower won gold in the men’s eight with coxswain event on Saturday, then took home a second gold medal in the four-man race yesterday. It capped off a much-anticipated week for Hembruff, who has been looking forward to the Games since 2019, when it first came on his radar.

The Ontario men’s four team celebrates following their gold medal win. [Photo by Nancy Boese/Canada Games]

“It’s a feeling that you often chase in rowing and in other parts of life, just the exhilaration and the adrenaline once you cross the line,” Hembruff said. “It was just a thrill that you want to keep replicating, but it’s very rare to find, so being able to find it twice in one regatta has been incredible.”

In the eight with coxswain, Ontario finished the preliminary heats with a slower time than Alberta and British Columbia, and trailed for most of the race that had medals on the line. But in the final 100 metres, Team Ontario took the lead.

They ended up winning by just 0.42 seconds.

“We were cautious. We knew that they were strong crews, but we had confidence,” Hembruff said. “We just put it into that next gear in the final stretch to get the gold medal.”

The four was dramatically different, with Ontario leading from the get-go and winning by a nearly three-second margin. But on both occasions, Hembruff’s reaction was the same.

“I screamed at the top of my lungs both times,” he said.

Gold in soccer but disappointment in box lacrosse

Four games, 320 minutes and zero goals allowed.

The Ontario women’s soccer team absolutely dominated at the Games and finished their undefeated performance by winning gold against Quebec 3-0 on Sunday. Ottawa’s Maya Galko started the game, while Teegan Melenhorst entered as a substitute in the 77th minute.

On Saturday, Ottawa goalkeeper Sofia Cortes-Browne said the team’s mindset entering the game was to focus on their game plan and performance, rather than how Quebec attacked them.

“Just having the mindset that we’re here to win, we’re here to work hard and take home gold,” Cortes-Browne said. “I think if we [do that], we’ll have a really good chance at winning this whole tournament.”

Sunday’s game was a rematch of the 2017 Canada Games, when Quebec defeated Ontario in the final in Winnipeg.

The same joy was absent from the Ontario men’s box lacrosse team, which lost 7-6 in the gold medal game against British Columbia. After beating B.C. 8-3 in the first match of the Games, the western province overcame a two-goal deficit to win gold.

British Columbia celebrates its gold medal win in box lacrosse. [Photo by Kent Keeler/Canada Games]

Like Ontario women’s soccer, the men’s lacrosse team was undefeated at the Games entering Sunday. It had also vastly outscored its opponents, out-tallying opponents 58-13.

Gloucester Griffins player Julien Belair scored two goals and one assist in the loss, while Hunter Lubiniecki chipped in an assist.

It was a fitting end to an emotional journey for B.C. One of their players, Ben Pawluk, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Burkitt’s lymphoma earlier this summer and was unable to attend the Games. The team kept Pawluk’s jersey hanging on the bench and in the medal ceremony, the team was awarded an extra medal to give to Pawluk.

Despite a valiant effort, volleyball bows out with 3-1 loss

Things also didn’t end as hoped for the Ontario women’s volleyball team, which entered the Games hoping for gold but exited with a sixth-place finish.

The final blow came Sunday, when they lost three sets to one to Quebec at Niagara College in Welland, Ont.

“We’re very disappointed with the outcome,” said Victoria Potvin of Maverick Volleyball Club in Ottawa. “I’m just super proud of us. We fought hard and we’ve been together the past five weeks and I’ve made so many great friendships and just working with everyone has been so amazing.”

Potvin was joined by Kate Lamothe and Audrey Goddard as the Ottawa delegation on Team Ontario. She said the experience of the Games was incredible — even if it didn’t end the way she wanted.

“To even be a part of the Canada Summer Games has been amazing,” Potvin said. “To be able to go through it with this team has been so great and it’s something I’ll cherish forever even if we didn’t win.”

Curtain call

That’s that for the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games!

Last night’s closing ceremonies marked its official end — but also the start to the countdown to this winter’s 2023 Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island.

We wish we had a succinct way to sum up everything Ottawa’s athletes gave to this summer’s Games, but it’s simply impossible. Fifty-one athletes with ties to the nation’s capital competed in dozens of events, and won dozens of medals.

Early on, Julie Brousseau was the star. She didn’t just shine among Ottawa athletes, but also among Team Ontario and all of those at the Games. The Nepean-Kanata Barracudas swimmer won a nearly unbelievable 11 medals, including six golds, in the first week of competition. Both totals tied Summer Games records set by Mississauga’s Hanna Henderson in 2017.

After securing her 11th, Brousseau told the Sports Pages she wasn’t sure what she was going to do with her six golds, one silver and four bronzes — let alone the 11 teddy bears that came with them. “Maybe I’ll give them to my family, I don’t know,” the Nepean High School student said with a smile. “Anyone who wants one can have one.”

Lacrosse’s Tristan Thompson was another history-maker for Team Ontario. She also had a golden Games, and her triumph came in the first-ever time her sport — women’s box lacrosse — was included at a Canada Games.

“We’ve made history,” Thompson said after Ontario’s 2-1 championship-winning victory over British Columbia. “We practised 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 to, it’s just like a dream.”

The second week of competition brought a new cast of Team Ontario heroes into the spotlight. Before Ottawa’s women’s soccer players helped bring home gold on the Games’ final day, it had been the city’s paddlers who commanded much of the attention in week No. 2.

In particular, a pair of sensational siblings led the way. The Rideau Canoe Club’s Wojtyk and Bradley siblings combined to win a spectacular 18 medals. Amelia and Zoe Wojtyk were responsible for 10, including three in boats together, while the brother-sister combo of Maren and Peter Bradley captured eight between the two of them.

We’re proud to say that these moments — and much, much more — may have been witnessed best by Sports Pages journalists. We had boots-on-the-ground for almost the entire length of the Games. Reporter Mark Colley (who’s been largely responsible for the daily recaps and previews you’ve received throughout the Games) covered the bulk of the Games in-person in Niagara — so we wanted to share his perspective on what stood out.

Question (Charlie Pinkerton, Sports Pages editor): What was your favourite moment of the Games and why?

Answer (Mark Colley, Sports Pages reporter): The men’s and women’s team wrestling gold medal event. Both competitions were between the same two provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, in the same gym at the same time. Ontario won gold in the men’s event and settled for silver in the women’s, but the energy and investment of the crowd made it a highlight of the Games.

Q (CP): Tell me, what did you think was the most exciting moment of the Games was for an Ottawa athlete?

A (MC): While I wasn’t there in person, Julie Brousseau’s 11-medal performance in the swimming pool is probably the most exciting moment of the Games for any Ottawa athlete. It tied the record for the most medals ever won in a single Canada Games. 

Q (CP): Which Ottawa athlete did you most enjoy covering and why? 

A (MC): This one is easy — the Wojtyk sisters. Their chemistry and energy — not to mention kindness — makes it easy to root for them. (Their 10 medals helps, too.) To win a medal the first time competing together is a great story.

That’s all, folks!

With the final day of competition in the books, it is officially the end of our coverage of the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.

And as our Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games coverage comes to a close, so too does our summer campaign for the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund, so we’d like to give a big thank you to everyone who’s already contributed, along with a little nudge to others to consider donating too 😉

Here’s a little final food for thought: have you found any coverage about Ottawa athletes competing at the Canada Summer Games in local media outlets other than the Ottawa Sports Pages? We were pleased to find our first article in mainstream media a couple days ago by CBC Ottawa about Julie Brousseau tying the Games record for most medals won. But that’s all we’ve seen anyhow…

If you believe, like us, that the amazing local athletes’ we’ve followed these past two weeks are deserving of their share of the spotlight, we’d love to have your support. Contributing $10/month (or any one-time donation) will help fuel our efforts to continue sharing untold local sports stories from the overlooked high school, university, community and elite amateur ranks.

All contributions of $20 or more are eligible to receive a charitable donation tax receipt and will be matched up to $5,000 by the Ottawa Community Foundation.

Support Ottawa Sports Pages with any donation you can now.

Thank you so much for joining us for this amazing ride our young rising athletes have taken us on over the past two weeks in Niagara! We’ll talk to you next from back home in Ottawa this coming weekend as we resume our regular Saturday newsletter schedule.

Finally, with your help, we’ll see you next at the Canada Summer Games in P.E.I. Until then, we bid you adieu.

HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.

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