By Martin Cleary
The Ontario Winter Games were created in 1970 as a multi-sport festival to provide the province’s rising athletes with an opportunity to develop and strive for national and international levels.
But while the competitions are serious, there’s also a fun component.
The athletes get a chance to meet competitors from across the province, experience an opening ceremony and be part of a large celebration of amateur sport. And there’s the occasional twist in how the Games play out.
Take ringette, for example.
The West Ottawa Wild girls’ U19 AA team qualified from the Ottawa region to compete in the 2023 Ontario Winter Games in Renfrew County, which opened Thursday and will run over this and next weekend.
But the 12 girls won’t be sitting on the same bench, skating with their regular linemates or focusing on winning a medal together as a team. Instead, the players have been placed on one of the six teams that are identified only by a colour or shade – Blue, Red, Black, White, Orange and Purple.
The Wild representation ranges from one player on the Purple and Red teams to two on the White and Blue squads and three on the Black and Orange teams.
The Renfrew Ontario Winter Games, which will spread over this weekend and Feb. 9-12, started Thursday with competition in ringette and futsal. The sports of artistic swimming, mixed and fours curling, fencing, boys’ U14 hockey, judo and short-track speed skating held practices Thursday before starting their scheduled competitions Friday.
The Games were originally slated for the weekends of Feb. 25-27 and March 3-6 in 2022, but were postponed until this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The opening three games of ringette at the Nick Smith Centre in Arnprior saw six West Ottawa players make the scoresheet with either a goal, an assist or a penalty.
Jaidyn McGuire scored the first goal of the game for her Black team, which went on to edge White 3-2. Katelyn Barteaux earned an assist on the second Black goal. Alexis McGuire also skated for the Black squad.
The White roster included Kailee Leskiw and Molly MacDougall.
Hannah McMillan assisted on the game-winning goal by Alyssa Perrault as Blue got past Red 6-5. Olivia Weylie also was in the Blue lineup, while Isabella Coe was wearing Red team colours.
Orange and Purple skated to a 4-4 deadlock and Mia Fioravanti had an assist on the fourth goal for the former team. Lucy Wojcik had a two-minute penalty for the Orange side, which also included Molly Cadieux.
Purple’s Danika Lindsay was one of three players in the game to be assessed two minor penalties, covering four minutes.
The Ontario Winter Games opening ceremony was scheduled for Thursday night at Ma-te-way Park in Renfrew for more than 2,200 athletes (ages 12 to 18), coaches, officials and volunteers. There will be 24 sports competitions at 17 venues in nine communities throughout the Ottawa Valley, including Petawawa, Pembroke, Arnprior and Cobden.
Ottawa, which has played host to four Ontario Summer Games (1976, 1994, 2006 and 2008) but never an Ontario Winter Games, will be welcoming athletes in two sports.
Short-track speed skating will be staged this weekend at the Bell Sensplex. The five-pin bowling competition will be held at the Merivale Bowling Centre on the second weekend.
The other second-weekend sports in the Ontario Winter Games are alpine and para alpine skiing, badminton, biathlon, cross-country skiing, karate, kickboxing, para (sledge) hockey, squash, weightlifting, wrestling and wushu.
The six goals of the Renfrew Ontario Winter Games are to celebrate as one big community, generate community pride and spirit, engage all communities, showcase the Renfrew County region, inspire and motivate area youth and stage the best Games ever.
WEATHER CANCELS FRIDAY NORDIC RACES AT EASTERN CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
The opening day of racing at the three-day Eastern Canadian cross-country skiing championships at the Nakkertok Nordic Ski Centre has been cancelled because of the weather forecast of extreme cold weather.
“The cold temperatures forecast Friday, minus 24°C as a high, has caused the jury and event organizers to cancel the first of three days of racing,” said a press release issued by the organizers on Thursday.
“For the health of the athletes, the rules for Olympic-style competition permit racing only at temperatures above minus 20°C.”
The Friday racing schedule for the U14 class was cancelled on Tuesday night by the race jury because the young skiers need the temperature to be minus 15°C or warmer. The cancellation of the entire Friday schedule also means no racing in the U16, U18, U20, senior and para divisions.
A decision about Saturday’s races will be made Friday morning. Temperatures could rise above minus 20°C in the afternoon and, if that happens, the scheduled races could be held or modified.
Race organizers expect to see the skiers on course Sunday as the forecasted temperatures could climb above the freezing mark along with some snow.
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
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 “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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