By Martin Cleary
Ottawa’s two fastest women on long blades have started another speed skating season in predictable, but still impressive style.
First-time medallists at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann won five and three medals respectively and each broke a track record at the Canadian championships on Centre de Glaces Intact Assurance ice in Quebec City.
Their medal haul included winning four of the six women’s national titles from 1,000 metres to 5,000 metres.
For the first time, the Canadian long-track and short-track speed skating championships were staged together for four days at the same venue. The Canadian long-track championships are traditionally held in Calgary, while the short-track nationals usually are based in Montreal.
The five-foot, four-inch Blondin, 32, had the busiest schedule at nationals, racing five times, but not the mass start, where she won the Olympic silver medal. Blondin captured her Olympic gold in team pursuit, but that race wasn’t held at nationals.
Blondin was the national champion over 1,000 metres in one minute, 15.832 seconds, and the 1,500 metres in a track record 1:55.500. She was runner-up to Weidemann in the 3,000 metres and 5,000 metres in respective times of 4:06.03 and 7:02.001. She also placed third in the 500 metres in 38.83, which almost eclipsed her five-week-old personal best of 38.69.
“It has been a long three days, but every race kept getting better,” Blondin said, after winning the 1,500 metres.
“My coach Bart (Schouten) decided that he wasn’t going to give me lap times to allow me to focus and execute the technical points that I wanted to work on and things turned out really well.”
Weidemann, a gold, silver and bronze medallist at the 2022 Olympics, focused on three races. She won the 5,000 metres in a track record 6:48.585 and the 3,000 metres in 4:00.206. In the 1,500 metres, she was slightly more than a second behind Blondin in second place at 1:56.536.
“I am really happy with my race today,” Weidemann said, following her championship-opening 3,000-metre victory.
“I wanted to be aggressive and stick to that plan. I was quite nervous going into this race, but happy that things turned out well.”
Jake Weidemann, the brother of Isabelle, placed third in the men’s mass start in 7:49.913. He is a member of Canada’s NextGen team. Connor Howe of Calgary won the race in 7:49.623.
There was plenty of National Capital talent in the men’s 500 metres as Cedrick Brunet of Gatineau was second in 35.500, Winter-Summer Olympian Vincent De Haître was fifth in 35.933 and Weidemann took 13th in 36.680.
The World Cup long-track season starts in Norway and The Netherlands in November and shifts to Calgary for a doubleheader on the weekends of Dec. 9-11 and Dec. 16-18. The International Skating Union’s Four Continents competition is Dec. 2-4 in Quebec City.
OTTAWA SOONERS’ SEASON ENDS WITH SEMIFINAL LOSS
Meeting for the first time in the Ontario Football Conference playoffs since 2009, defending champion and host London Beefeaters defeated the Ottawa Sooners 38-14 in the semifinals.
Pennant-winning and undefeated St. Clair Saints shut out the Hamilton Hurricanes 44-0 during the other semifinal in Windsor.
The Beefeaters were considered the favourite in their opening playoff game, since they had defeated the Sooners 42-14 and 31-6 in the regular season. Ottawa, which returned to the OFC for the first time in three years and placed third at 5-3, entered the semifinal with only one win in its last three games.
CARLETON RAVENS PERFECT ON HOME FOOTBALL FIELD
The OUA’s Carleton University Ravens have been able to accomplish something the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks haven’t been able to do this season – win at home.
The Ravens not only won all four regular-season home games, but also it was the first time the football program had achieved that feat since 1986.
By defeating the University of Waterloo Warriors 36-18, the Ravens improved their record to 4-3 and made head coach Corey Grant the first Carleton football head coach since 1969 to win four regular-season games in his inaugural season in the top job.
Placement kicker Brandon Forcier added to the celebration by kicking a club record six field goals, which broke the former standard of five jointly held by Mike Domagala and Jeff Morris.
Forcier’s 18 points were matched by the combined 18 points accumulated by touchdown scorers Frederick Hachey (five-yard pass from quarterback Tanner DeJong), Nicolas Sua (one-yard run) and Kaseem Ferdinand (three-yard pass from DeJong).
Ferdinand finished the game with more than 200 all-purpose yards – 103 yards receiving and 106 yards on punt returns.
Running backs JP Cimankinda and Amlicar Polk scored two touchdowns each to account for half of the eight majors scored by the University of Ottawa as the Gee-Gees ran past the York University Lions 66-0.
Cimankinda reached the end zone after runs of four and 23 yards, while Polk had touchdown runs of three and five yards.
The Gee-Gees’ other touchdowns came from Daniel Oladejo (19-yard pass from quarterback Matt Mahler), Tristin Park (44-yard pass from Mahler), Emmanuel Aboagye-Gyan (50-yard fumble recovery) and Mahler (five-yard run).
Campbell Fair kicked field goals from 28 and 14 yards and added eight converts. The Gee-Gees also were credited with two team safeties.
Cimankinda ran for 231 yards on 22 carries and Polk gained 93 yards on 13 rushes. The Gee-Gees had 370 yards rushing from 42 carries.
AKHEEM MESIDOR SHINES ON DEFENCE FOR HURRICANES
Ottawa’s Akheem Mesidor gave an award-winning performance as the University of Miami Hurricanes defeated the Virginia Tech University Hokies 20-14 in the NCAA’s Atlantic Coast Conference.
Mesidor, a 6-3, 280-pound defensive lineman, led the charge for the Hurricanes with a rare effort of eight tackles (four solo and four assisted) and 3.5 sacks.
His defensive play earned Mesidor the Walter Camp National FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) Defensive Player of the Week honour. He was the third ACC player in the past three seasons to register 3.5 sacks in one game and one of five to achieve that figure this season at college football’s highest level.
Mesidor, who transferred to Miami this season from West Virginia University, has been a reliable contributor to the Hurricanes’ defence this fall.
“In practice, we harp on affecting the quarterback,” Mesidor said. “We ran a few things that we knew would work, but it all came down to preparation… I think we prepared properly. I prepared properly and as a whole defence, we dominated.”
uOTTAWA UNDEFEATED AT FISU AMERICAS SOCCER QUALIFIER
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s soccer team has won its first two games at the Americas qualifier for the 2023 FISU University World Cup in China.
The Gee-Gees defeated Tecnologico de Monterrey of Mexico 3-1 on Monday, after blanking Salgado de Oliveira University of Brazil 4-0 on Saturday.
The defending World Cup champion from 2019, the Gee-Gees will finish their round-robin pool on Wednesday against Paulista University of Brazil, which is the team Ottawa defeated 1-0 in the championship game three years ago.
Ella Chase scored two goals and Olivia Allen added one as the Gee-Gees defeated Monterrey for their second straight win. Allen counted two goals in a 4-0 victory over Salgado de Oliveira, while single goals were added by Cassandra Provost and Angelina Gendreau.
The semifinals are Friday and the medal matches go Sunday.
ANNABELLE CHUKWU MAKES STATEMENT AT U17 WORLD CUP
Canada is scheduled to meet Tanzania on Tuesday (10:30 a.m. ET) at the FIFA U17 Women’s Soccer World Cup in Goa, India, with a playoff berth on the line.
After tying France 1-1 in its opening game, Canada lost 4-0 to Japan and is in fourth place out of four teams in its pool. In order to reach the quarterfinals, Canada must defeat second-place Tanzania and hope undefeated Japan can beat or tie France (or overcome its current three-goal deficit in goal differential compared to France should the French win).
Ottawa’s Annabelle Chukwu, who recently joined the National Development Centre-Ontario, has played in both games, entering as a sub for striker Kayla Briggs, and used her time extremely well.
In the game against France, Chukwu executed some nifty footwork in front of France’s goalkeeper to score into a wide-open net in the 67th minute for Canada’s only goal. She also drew a yellow card in the 85th minute.
Chukwu’s determined play earned her the Performance Player of the Game award for Canada.
While Canada didn’t get a shot on goal against Japan, the national team managed seven shot attempts and Chukwu, 15, was responsible for four of them. Chukwu played the entire second half.
ISABELLE CHUKWU SCORES DECIDING GOAL IN OSU PLAYOFF WIN
Back at home, it was Chukwu’s twin sister Isabelle who played the hero’s role, scoring their Ottawa South United Force club team’s lone goal in a 1-0 Ontario Player Development League Charity Shield playoff semifinal victory over Aurora on Saturday at George Nelms Sports Park.
Ava Blinn recorded the shutout in goal as the Force under-15 girls’ team moved within one game of becoming just the second team to ever sweep the season’s Cup, League and Charity Shield titles (the Force U17 girls were in the first in 2019).
A day later, the Force U14 girls matched their senior counterparts’ one-goal semifinal victory at George Nelms.
Deadlocked 0-0 with Hamilton United into the final quarter, Naomi Lofthouse and Julianna Zappavigna both hammered home strikes off the crossbar and in before Hamilton did the same off a free kick on the last play of the game to make the final 2-1 for the home side.
“I was so glad when Julianna scored. It was her first goal and it was a really nice goal,” signalled Lofthouse, a team captain. “In the last quarter, we all kind of knew the goal was coming because the whole game we’d had possession. We had so many chances and we just kept missing them, but it was only a matter of time before we actually got one.”
The Force U17 girls lost to their nemesis Markham 2-0 to end their campaign. Markham beat OSU by two goals in the Cup final, the deciding league championship game, and now the playoffs.
CARLETON WINS HOUSE-LAUGHTON MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNEY
Carleton University Ravens men’s basketball team needed comebacks and overtime to win two of its three games during its annual House-Laughton tournament.
The Ravens held a 22-8 advantage after the opening quarter against the University of Victoria in each team’s third and final game. But the Vikes charged back for 14- and 11-point leads after the second and third quarters respectively.
Carleton mounted a fourth-quarter comeback to force a tie at the end of regulation play and overtime. In the extra period, the Ravens used an 11-0 run to post an 88-80 win over Victoria.
Connor Vreeken recorded 22 points and four rebounds for Carleton and had plenty of help from fellow starters Grant Shephard, 21 points and eight rebounds, Wazir Latif, 20 points and six rebounds, and Aiden Warnholtz, 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Warnholtz was named the tournament MVP and one of the five all-stars along with Shephard.
In its second game, Carleton rallied from a six-point deficit at halftime to outscore McMaster University Marauders 35-18 in the second half, which triggered a 78-67 win.
Vreeken scored 20 points, while Shephard had a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds and Warnholtz contributed 13 assists in 39 minutes of play.
Carleton defeated Concordia University Stingers 81-56 in its opening game.
The Ravens women’s basketball team won one of three exhibition games in the Maritimes, losing to Acadia University Axewoman 75-60 and Dalhousie University Tigers 65-61 before defeating Saint Mary’s University Huskies 72-62.
Kali Pocrnic was Carleton’s leading scorer with 24 points against both Saint Mary’s and Acadia, while Dorcas Buisa and Jacqueline Urban had matching 14-point efforts against Dalhousie.
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s basketball team was one field goal shy of winning the McGill Basketball Classic as they fell to the host Redbirds 61-60 in the final game of their three-game weekend.
The Gee-Gees’ starting five was held to under 10 points by McGill, but Liban Abdalla and Kevin Otoo came off the bench to pace Ottawa with 10 points each. Starter Dragan Stajic had nine points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
Ottawa posted comfortable wins in its first two games – 78-61 over Saint Mary’s University Huskies and 80-65 over the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.
Cole Newton paced the Gee-Gees with 18 points against Saint Mary’s and Guillaume Pepin topped the Ottawa scoring list with 16 points against Lethbridge.
OTTAWA PLAYERS PROMINENT IN PWHPA DREAM GAP TOUR OPENER
An all-Ottawa shootout showdown decided the final game of the season-opening Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association’s Dream Gap Tour weekend in Montreal.
Team Harvey’s and Team Sonnet went to a shootout following a 2-2 tie, and it was local goalie Geneviève Lacasse who stopped Rebecca Leslie on the deciding shot to give Harvey’s the win. Kanata’s Jamie Lee Rattray had missed a chance to win the shootout in the previous round for Harvey’s.
Rattray, the 2022 Olympic champion, scored her team’s first goal of the weekend, but Team Adidas fired in four in a row to win 4-2. Renfrew/Nepean’s Megan Eady is a member of Team Adidas.
With Leslie and fellow Ottawa players Sam Cogan and Erica Howe in their lineup, Sonnet beat Team Scotiabank 4-2 in their first contest.
Each game counts towards the Dream Gap Tour’s season-long standings. The PWHPA seeks to establish a full-fledged professional women’s hockey league in the future.
SEASON-OPENING SPLIT FOR CAPITAL COURTS ACADEMY
Capital Courts Academy, the defending Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association women’s champion, split its opening two games of the 2022-23 season at Cairine Wilson Secondary School.
After falling 75-62 to archrival Crestwood Preparatory College in its Saturday game, Capital Courts rebounded for an 89-83 win over Niagara Prep.
Capital Courts defeated Crestwood 74-70 in the 2022 OSBA quarterfinals before turning back Lincoln Prep 74-65 in the semifinals and King’s Christian Collegiate 65-61 in the final. Crestwood beat Capital Courts by one point in the 2019 final and won again in 2020.
Cassandra Prosper averaged 23.2 points a game during the three playoff matches, while Catrina Garvey (15.8), Lydia Melaschenko (13.3) and Jessica Wangolo (10.0) were part of a strong supporting cast. Prosper, Garvey and Wangolo have returned to Capital Courts for the 2022-23 season.
LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST
• Gloucester’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Mexico’s Guiliana Olmos are ranked as the No. 1 women’s doubles team on the Race to the WTA Final, which is Oct. 31 to Nov. 7 in Fort Worth, Texas. Dabrowski and Olmos maintained their WTA overall rankings of eighth and seventh respectively after losing the inaugural San Diego Open final 1-6, 7-5, 10-4 to Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula.
• Jonathan David of Gloucester scored one goal in each half as LOSC Lille blanked Strasbourg 3-0 in a Ligue 1 match in France. In his first 11 games, David is tied for first place in the goal-scoring race at nine with Neymar Jr of Paris Saint-Germain.
• Ottawa Lions’ Nico Pedersen placed third in the men’s open eight-kilometre McMaster University Bayfront Open cross-country race in 26 minutes, 17.7 seconds, while University of Ottawa’s Noemie Beauregard was 12th in the women’s university eight-kilometre test in 29:34.8.
• Carleton University’s Ty Rouse finished tied for sixth place in the men’s division during the OUA golf championships at Hylands Golf Club with rounds of 76-74 for a six-over-par 150, while the University of Ottawa’s Zach Car was tied for eighth at 75-76-151. Claire Stoney of Carleton was the top local female golfer, shooting 84-82-186 for a ninth-place tie.
• Three-time Paralympian Josh Cassidy of the Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club won the inaugural wheelchair division at the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon, while Kemptville veterinarian Lee Wesselius placed third in the men’s Canadian championship race. Wesselius finished in 2:16:51, which was 14 seconds off his personal-best time. Trevor Hofbauer of Kelowna, B.C. won the national title for a third time in 2:11:00. Cassidy clocked in at 1:39:54.
• Co-captain Patrice Dagenais of Embrun and Team Canada finished off their Wheelchair Rugby World Championships strongly to place fifth overall. Canada went 3-2 in pool play before a 53-51 quarter-final loss to USA dropped them into the battle for fifth to eighth place. The Canadians then beat New Zealand 60-49 and France 60-48 to earn fifth.
• The Canadian women’s rugby team assured itself of a berth in the quarter-finals with a 22-12 victory over Italy at the Oct. 8-Nov. 12 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Like in Canada’s opening 41-5 victory over Japan, University of Ottawa Gee-Gees’ Maddy Grant played the full match and Barrhaven Scottish product Alexandria Ellis came on as a substitute in the second half. Canada will conclude pool play on Oct. 23 against USA.
— with files from Dan Plouffe
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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