It was a big year for Ottawa’s amateur athletes as much of the sports calendar eventually returned through less of a COVID-obstructed cloud.
Our year-in-review is the 447th story on local sports story that our team has posted on OttawaSportsPages.ca in 2022, so it perhaps goes without saying that narrowing this list down to 22 was not an easy job.
We’re going to start by looking back on 12 (unranked) moments fairly quickly – you can of course click on the image links to read our stories in more depth – and then we’ll highlight our picks for the top-10 in a bit more detail. Here we go!
The Distinguished Dozen
Local para hockey players led the way with their silver medals, while Collinda Joseph fulfilled a lifelong goal with a bronze as Ottawa athletes powered Canada’s Paralympic team at the Beijing 2022 Games.
Vicky Savard broke onto the Canadian senior women’s volleyball team for the first time at age 29, and then helped the team to its best-ever finish at the World Championships.
Trinity Lowthian can only eat and drink by intravenous, but she’s worked through her health issues to become a rapidly-rising talent in the wheelchair fencing world who could contend for a place at the 2024 Paralympics.
Loans, maxed out credit cards, and boardroom drama accompanied Mimi Rahneva’s fifth-place performance at the Olympics, but the skeleton slider continued to excel nonetheless, including a World Cup victory early in her new season.
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s soccer and rugby teams didn’t get the colour of medal they wanted most, but their national bronze performances this fall extended both programs’ impressive streaks in recent years.
Amid blinding snow squalls, the Cumberland Panthers completed a masterful season where they won each game by at least three touchdowns en route to an Ontario Fall Cup provincial title.
The Rideau Canoe Club held first place in the club standings from start to finish at the five-day Canadian canoe sprint championships to win its fourth consecutive national burgee.
The Nakkertok Nordic Ski Club kept its dynasty going strong by winning the Canadian cross-country ski championships’ overall club title for the 11th consecutive time, besting 63 other clubs.
The Ottawa Rowing Club won five national titles at the Royal Canadian Henley, and ORC’s Josh King took some big strokes towards making Canada’s 2024 Olympic team a few days before getting married at the club.
On the heels of an Ontario Cup title, Gloucester Celtic FC went undefeated in four games over five days to secure its second men’s national amateur soccer Challenge Trophy in 10 years.
OFSAA high school provincial sports competition resumed midway through 2022 and national capital teams won gold at the year’s first and last championships – St. Peter in badminton and St. Matthew in football.
Ottawa athletes helped Canada end a pair of long-standing appearance droughts in World Cup competitions – Rowan Harris in women’s field hockey (28 years) and Jonathan David in men’s soccer (36 years).
Ottawa’s Terrific Ten
- Young stars and seasoned vets shine at Commonwealth Games
Thirteen athletes from the national capital represented Canada at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, as rising athletes took to the multi-sport stage alongside a pair of experienced Paralympians.
Wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy returned to his first international multi-sport games since the Rio 2016 Paralympics and was rewarded for his persistence with the chance to carry the maple leaf as Canada’s opening ceremonies flag bearer in Birmingham, England.
The 37-year-old placed fourth in the marathon to match the performance of Games rookie Olivia De Couvreur, who also had a wild ride en route to the Rugby Sevens World Cup and a regular spot in the Canadian side preparing for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Another local pair on opposite ends of the athletic career spectrum also had matching results, with 16-year-old Jenna Lalonde earning a bronze medal in artistic gymnastics and retiring three-time Paralympic swimmer Camille Bérubé also taking bronze.
- Capital Courts shock the favourites for first provincial title
The underdog Capital Courts Academy captured its first-ever Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association championship in March, despite facing greater COVID-induced challenges than many of their opponents.
CCA had a high-performance exemption to keep training through public health lockdowns, but couldn’t do so when all public gymnasiums were closed in Ottawa, so they took refuge in Fort Erie, Ont.
The extra strong team bond that grew from living together for weeks in a rented house proved valuable when they took down all three top-ranked teams back-to-back-to-back on OSBA Final 8 championship weekend following their 8-9 regular season.
Ottawa natives Achol Akot, Catrina Garvey and Jessica Wangolo then moved onto the national stage for the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games and earned a bronze medal for the home province.
With seven returning players who have all improved, the Capital Courts lineup of “Marvel Superheroes” (as coach Fabienne Blizzard likes to call them) are back for more this season, and have put together a solid 6-2 record before the holiday break.
- Diver Kate Miller enters first synchro competition, becomes world jr. champ
Kate Miller showed she is a fast learner – extremely fast.
The Nepean-Ottawa Diving Club athlete had never competed with another diver in synchronized springboard diving prior to her early-December world junior diving championships in Montreal.
Miller and Quebec City’s Sonya Palkhivala practised their five dives, which had a full range of degrees of difficulty, only three times before the three-metre synchro springboard final, but emerged as world champions ahead of 13 other teams.
The 17-year-old also came within less than a point of winning a second medal at the world junior championships, finishing fourth in her individual platform event.
Along with fellow flipping and spinning athlete Jenna Lalonde (mentioned above), Miller is definitely an emerging teenage talent who could challenge for a place on Canada’s 2024 Olympic team.
- Carleton Ravens win 16th university men’s basketball national title
After receiving the rare invitation to the Canadian university men’s basketball championship as the At-Large representative and not as the OUA champion or runner-up, the Carleton University Ravens implemented their best fast-break technique and headed for Edmonton for the 2022 U Sports championships.
Aiming to win three games in as many days, the Ravens not only entered the Alberta capital as a rare No. 7 seed after being U Sports’ top-ranked team all season, but also they tore down their three Western Canada opponents en route to their 16th national championship since they started their dynasty in 2003. It also was their 10th Canadian university men’s basketball title in the past 11 years.
Lloyd Pandi was named the Canadian university men’s basketball player of the year and shortly after announced that he would be leaving the Ravens in pursuit of professional basketball career opportunities.
Four female student-athletes from Ottawa also won U Sports championships for three different out-of-town universities this past season – Guelph soccer player-turned-track sprinter Jacqueline Madogo, Concordia hockey player Sandrine Lavictoire, and Toronto Metropolitan basketball players Eve Uwayesu and Marin Scotten.
- Ottawa Lions race to repeat national cross-country title on home course
The Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club’s under-18 girls’ cross-country running team won its second consecutive national title as the Terry Fox Athletic Facility welcomed the Canadian championships on the best possible late-November weather day Ottawa could offer.
It was a golden finish to a trying cross-country season for Lions lead runner Amelia Van Brabant, who’d battled several injuries and blacked out from heatstroke before the end of the OFSAA high school provincial championships race earlier in the fall.
OFSAA XC did not go well for Van Brabant, but it was an exceptional day for national capital runners as a whole, as they combined for an association-record eight medals, led by junior boys’ gold medallist Saul Taler of Glebe Collegiate and the Immaculata Saints junior boys’ team champions.
Local high school runners also flew to OFSAA titles on the track, including champions Timeo Atonfo of Gisèle-Lalonde, Elizabeth Vroom of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and William Sanders of St. Mother Teresa.
- Ottawa South United Force U14 girls keep raising the bar for local soccer
The Ottawa South United Force under-14 girls’ soccer team followed in the footsteps of the groundbreaking OSU group one year older than them this season as they collected provincial hardware and national distinctions.
The U15 Force girls won their second consecutive Ontario Player Development League crown and the U14 girls won both the OPDL overall and Charity Shield titles, with nine players across the two squads recruited to join the women’s national team’s development centre in Toronto.
And the fun didn’t end there for the Force, with numerous players called on to represent Canada internationally.
Mya Angus, Bianca Hanisch and twins Annabelle and Isabelle Chukwu all played for Canada at the CONCACAF U15 Women’s Championship, while Annabelle Chukwu was called up for the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup and scored Canada’s first goal of the competition.
Annabelle Chukwu also made her debut with the Canadian senior women’s national team along with alum Clarissa Larisey this year – a club first.
- Nepean Knights win historic junior provincial & national lacrosse titles
The Nepean Knights swept their way through the entire Ontario Jr. B Lacrosse League playoffs without losing a game and celebrated Ottawa’s first-ever junior provincial championship in front of a capacity crowd on their home floor in August. The 1976 runner-up Nepean Timbermen were the only Ottawa team to have ever previously reached the league championship final.
But the Knights didn’t stop there – they kept their perfect postseason record intact all the way to a national championship. They went 6-0 at the Founders Cup in Brampton, including the gold-medal final where the Knights scored two late goals and then played the final 2½ minutes short-handed to squeeze past Coquitlam 7-6.
“It was pure exuberance,” recalled Knights coach and builder Matt Firth. “Nepean has never done this before – never even come close. We won our biggest trophy ever.”
- Brianna Hennessy wins 2 world medals 2 years after taking up paddling
The emotions came on strong for Brianna Hennessy as she won a pair of medals at the Paracanoe World Senior Sprint Championships two years after she was introduced to first water sport.
Hennessy, who says sport is her therapy after becoming tetraplegic when a taxicab struck her, went to the Ottawa River Canoe Club when COVID shut down her wheelchair rugby pursuits, met coach Joel Hazzan, was handed a paddle and away they went.
Hennessy qualified for the Paralympics a year later at age 36, and then captured her first two international medals earlier this season (despite flipping out of her boat into frigid water moments after finishing her first race).
But the big win came on home water in Dartmouth, N.S., when Hennessy got to perform at a big competition in front of her paddling family, for the first time really, and captured silver and bronze medals.
Sophia Jensen, whose home is a swift paddle up the Gatineau River in Chelsea, also excelled at the worlds, earning gold and silver medals herself.
- Swimmer Julie Brousseau ties Canada Summer Games record with 11 medals
Ah, where to start with the Canada Summer Games? We probably could have made a top-10 list with this event alone as the Ottawa Sports Pages tailed over 50 local athletes who competed at the Niagara 2022 national youth multi-sport games.
Well, of course we have to start with Julie Brousseau. The 16-year-old Nepean-Kanata Barracudas swimmer won three medals in just over an hour on the final day of the Canada Games swimming competition to officially write her name into the record books. With six gold, one silver, and four bronze, her 11-medal performance matched the most anyone’s ever won at the Games, and also had her wondering what she would do with the 11 teddy bears that also came her way as a secondary prize.
Among the other memorable moments for local athletes were:
- The Wojtyk and Bradley siblings leading the Rideau Canoe Club’s endless charge to the podium in canoe-kayak competition.
- Tristan Thompson’s heart-pounding gold medal win in the first-ever female lacrosse competition at the Canada Games.
- Laila Seed-Desai winning gold and blazing trails as likely the first athlete to hit the wrestling podium while wearing a hijab.
- Kai Harada enduring shoulder dislocations, more injuries and mental health struggles en route to individual and team wrestling gold medals.
- Sprinter Eliezer Adjibi overcoming a hamstring issue to win double gold and vault himself into contention for an Olympic team berth.
- Cyclist Lucy Hempstead winning a gold medal on her mom’s birthday.
- Aidan Hembruff scoring a pair of rowing gold medals and Ontario’s female soccer team keeping a clean sheet the whole way to the top of podium on the Games’ final day.
And so much more…
- Olympic golden girls: Isabelle Weidemann, Ivanie Blondin & Jamie Lee Rattray
Three Ottawa athletes earned medals at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, and they were all golden.
Gloucester Concordes Speed Skating Club mates Isabelle Weidemann and Ivanie Blondin became Olympic champions at the same moment, skating side-by-side to the gold medal in the women’s team pursuit competition.
Earlier in the Games, Weidemann followed in the tracks of Ottawa’s most decorated Olympian of all-time, Kristina Groves, by winning a bronze medal in the opening event of the speed skating competition. She also added a silver medal to her hearty haul and was chosen as Canada’s Closing Ceremonies flag bearer.
Blondin finished her “redemption Games” with a second medal of her own, winning a silver in the mass start event while also clearing mental health hurdles.
The Canadian women’s hockey team enjoyed a fairly dominant run at the Beijing Olympics, and Jamie Lee Rattray was in the middle of it all as she celebrated Olympic gold in her debut Games before turning her attention to the future of women’s hockey.
And that does it! We hope you enjoyed looking back on the big local amateur sports highlights from 2022.
That was indeed a task to whittle it down to those 22 moments, but to keep your hearts warm with local sport spirit throughout the holidays, you’re also welcome to look back on our signature Ottawa Sports Pages coverage of 2022 when we provided day-by-day reporting on our local athletes competing at multi-sport games:
Ottawa at the Olympics | Ottawa at the Paralympics | Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games
We’ll be taking a break to recharge for an exciting new year ahead, including the rapid arrival of the Ontario and Canada Winter Games come February.
We’ll be back reporting on our website the week of Jan. 9.
To our readers: thank you so much for your support of the Ottawa Sports Pages all year – we wish you all a fantastic holiday season and a wonderful 2023!
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