By Martin Cleary
If former New York Yankee baseball great Yogi Berra was to study the list of major winners for the 2023 Ottawa Sports Awards Dinner, he would have only one comment:
“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
And he would be absolutely correct to use one of his famous Yogi-isms as three of the six major award recipients for the 2022 season are repeat honorees from the 2021 dinner, when the down-sized event was staged last June for the first time in two years at the Canadian Golf and Country Club.
Two other major award winners are familiar with having the spotlight fall on them for their achievements and one athlete will be honoured for the first time with an elite award.
The 70th Ottawa Sports Awards dinner is the largest and most inclusive amateur sport recognition event in Canada. The dinner is scheduled for Feb. 8 at The Centurion Conference and Event Centre. Tickets are $70.
As two of the world’s top long-track speed skaters, Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann will share the Female Athlete of the Year award for the second straight year, after winning two and three medals respectively at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
They will again have their names etched on a trophy named after Ottawa speed-skating great Kristina Groves. Blondin also was the lone winner of the female athlete-of-the-year award in 2014 and 2019, while Weidemann was the sole winner in 2018.
At the Olympics, Blondin waited to the end of the speed skating program to capture her first two career medals in her third Winter Games. She was part of Canada’s gold-medal champion Team Pursuit squad with Weidemann and also was the silver medallist in the mass start.
Weidemann’s other two medals came in individual events – a silver in the 5,000 metres and a bronze over 3,000 metres. By collecting a full set of medals in one Games, she was named Canada’s flagbearer for the Closing Ceremony.
In the opening four stops on the 2022-23 World Cup schedule at the end of last year, Blondin averaged six races each weekend and was always high on the leaderboard. She earned six World Cup medals, including one mass start gold and two Team Pursuit gold with Weidemann.
Individually, Weidemann also won a silver and a bronze in the 3,000 metres in the opening half of the World Cup season.
Glenroy Gilbert will move into elite company as he was returned as the Male Coach of the Year. It will be the sixth time he will be presented the honour, which ties him with Dave Smart (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2012) and Jen Boyd (2007, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019) for most awards in the coaching category.
As head coach of Canada’s athletics team since 2017, Gilbert was responsible for the men’s 4×100-metre relay team, which gave a record-breaking performance to defeat the United States by seven one-hundredths of a second for the gold medal.
Gilbert assembled a champion quartet of Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake, Brendon Rodney and Andre De Grasse and watched them run a Canadian record and world-leading time of 37.48 seconds in the final on the Eugene, Oregon, track. It was Canada’s first men’s 4×100-metre relay gold in 25 years and Gilbert ran the second leg for that team in Athens.
The USA swept the podium and had four finalists in the individual men’s 100 m, with an average time of 9.90 seconds compared to the Canadians’ average of 10.14, but it was Canada that won the relay over the host country by .07.
“The team executed Gilbert’s aggressive strategy perfectly, ensuring quick exchanges, to capture the first international gold medal for Canada in that event since 1997,” noted the Ottawa Sports Awards Dinner press release.
Gilbert, who was the dinner’s Male Athlete of the Year in 1996 for his role in Canada’s gold-medal 4×100-metre relay effort at the Atlanta Summer Olympics, also will see his home club earn Female Team of the Year honours.
For the second consecutive year, the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club’s U18 girls’ cross-country running squad placed first in the team category during the Canadian championships at Mooney’s Bay, which is the club’s home base.
When Amelia Van Brabant, Jocelyn Giannotti, Louise Stonham and Quinn Coughlin posted the lowest placement point total for four club runners, the Lions became the second team in national championship history to win back-to-back team titles.
The Lions scored a 40-point victory over the second-place South Simcoe Dufferin Track and Field Club team, after winning the 2021 Canadian championship by only one point. Van Brabant was 18th in the individual race in 2022, while Giannotti was 22nd, Stonham 46th and Coughlin 50th.
Rideau Canoe Club’s Cheyanne Farquharson has been named the Female Coach of the Year, an award she won for the first time in 2013. As Rideau’s head coach, she oversaw the club as it won the Canoe Kayak Canada national team burgee for a fourth consecutive time.
Farquharson saw 14 Rideau athletes named to Team Canada for the world championships at the senior, U23 and junior levels as well as the Olympic Hopes Regatta. Rideau athletes made many trips to the medal podium, including three at the world championships.
Rideau paddlers also earned eight medals at the Canada Summer Games.
The Carleton University men’s basketball program will be honoured as the Male Team of the Year for the 13th time since 2003, but its first time since 2017.
After an undefeated 14-0 OUA regular season, the Ravens lost the provincial final to Queen’s University Gaels, but met the criteria to advance to the national Final 8 as the seventh seed. Carleton was undefeated at nationals, defeating Victoria Vikes 94-77 in the quarterfinals, Alberta Golden Bears 64-63 in the semifinals and Saskatchewan Huskies 85-72 in the championship game.
Tyrone Henry, who helped Canada win its second consecutive silver medal in para ice hockey at the Beijing Paralympic Games, has been voted the Male Athlete of the Year by the dinner committee’s 11-person board.
An assistant team captain and seven-year veteran on the national team, Henry earned two assists as a defenceman in Canada’s 11-0 win over South Korea in the semifinals. Canada dropped the final 5-0 to the United States.
Henry is only the second athlete with a disability to be Ottawa’s top male athlete. Track runner Jason Dunkerley was the first athlete with a disability to receive the top honor in 2004.
One of four members of the Sledge Hockey Eastern Ontario squad on the Beijing Paralympic team, Henry is familiar with the annual awards dinner. He has been para hockey’s top athlete four times and also was recognized as a member of the Ottawa Rowing Club crew in 2013, after winning a Henley national final.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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