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Ottawa @ CWG Day 3: Warm, rainy conditions threaten biathlon, freestyle skiing


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(This article was first sent to subscribers of the free Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it below!)

Day 3 Recap: Warm, rainy conditions threaten biathlon, freestyle skiing

By Mark Colley

Yesterday was a bad day for outdoor winter sports.

Thanks to a storm system dumping rain and elevating temperatures in Prince Edward Island, Canada Games organizers had to postpone multiple events, including freestyle skiing. Speed Skating practices at the Halifax oval, where temperatures reached 8°C, were also cancelled.

But the unseasonably warm weather didn’t just hurt those competing in postponed events, like Ottawa freestyle skier Matthew Lepine. It also upended the plans of Ottawa biathletes, who competed in rain and heavy winds at the Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park in North Wiltshire, P.E.I.

Ella Niedre and Rachel Lambley, who have known each other since they were seven-year-old jackrabbits at Kanata Nordic, both braved the elements in the six kilometre female sprint event, placing seventh and 20th respectively.

Niedre entered the Games with a training disadvantage, having missed all of the summer training period with mono. But the poor conditions hurt her ability to shoot, she said.

She also said she arrived at the venue late, meaning she wasn’t able to finish her warmups. That cost her in the race.

“For me, I wouldn’t say my race went great or as I was expecting,” Niedre said. “I did not shoot very well, so that definitely made an impact on how my results and timing came.”

Niedre said she’s a stronger skier and normally makes up time lost at the shooting range on the course. The sprint is normally her worst race because there’s less distance to make up time.

“If I’m not shooting well, they’re never really my best event,” she explained.

In the male 7.5 kilometre sprint, Will Ng finished 12th and Antoine Gendron finished 22nd. All four local athletes represent Chelsea Nordiq.

Niedre and Lambley both compete tomorrow in the 7.5 kilometre women’s pursuit. Niedre expects this event to go better, along with the 10 kilometre individual and single mixed relay events later in the week.

“Tomorrow, when I have a lot longer and more laps to ski faster and hopefully the shooting comes together a little bit,” she said.

Wheelchair basketball takes loss but finds the silver lining

When Desmond O’Shaughnessy competed with the Ontario provincial wheelchair basketball team at junior nationals in June 2022, he found out how far behind the team was.

Ontario was smaller and newer to the sport. As a team, they were unprepared.

“We didn’t know what was coming at us,” O’Shaughnessy said. “It was really fast-paced.”

Flash forward eight months and O’Shaughnessy is now competing with Ontario at the Canada Winter Games. While the team lost 73-43 to Alberta in their first action of the tournament, O’Shaughnessy was optimistic.

“It was a tough loss but significantly better than how we did when we played in the junior nationals,” he explained. “We didn’t get the win, but we still learned a lot.”

Desmond O’Shaughnessy goes for the tip-off. Mike Schut/Canada Games

As the reigning Canada Games champions, Alberta took a commanding 25-4 lead in the first quarter. But Ontario played better as the game wore on, eventually being outscored by only one point in the third frame.

“They were tough, but we didn’t really let it get to us too much,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We left with our heads high. It was a ton of fun and we understand that we’re a young team still compared to all the other teams, especially Alberta.”

O’Shaughnessy got his start in the sport at age 11 when he quit hockey due to too many concussions. He started playing wheelchair basketball when a parasport demonstration at his school caught his eye.

Now at the Canada Games, he’s looking to make the most of the experience. He was one of four Ontario players to score points yesterday and will be looking to do the same today as his team takes on British Columbia at 12 p.m. ET.

“The teams are stronger, but that doesn’t stop us from trying our best, putting up as many points as we can and giving them a tough game in general,” he said.

Other action: Narrow wins in curling, ringette

The Ava Acres RCMP Curling Club rink topped Newfoundland & Labrador by a point to even their record at 1-1. Photo: David Weintraub / Canada Winter Games

In female curling, the Ottawa-based Team Acres bounced back from a 7-5 loss on Sunday with a narrow 6-5 win over Newfoundland and Labrador. Trailing 5-4 after seven ends, the rink from RCMP Curling Club scored one point with the hammer in the eighth end and then stole one in the extra end to take the victory.

Getting the nerves out of the way helped. Aila Thompson, the team’s vice, said Sunday that the key to victory would be playing relaxed and loose.

In ringette, the Ottawa-heavy Ontario team edged out Nova Scotia 7-5, keeping a perfect record after a blowout 9-1 win over Saskatchewan on Sunday.

Taylor Forrest of the Gloucester Cumberland Ringette Association scored three goals while Kanata’s Kate Babineau netted two.

In squash, Iman Shaheen won her first match 11-1, 11-4, 11-0, then flew through the quarterfinals with another straight-sets victory 11-3, 11-3, 11-1. But Shaheen met her match in the semifinals, falling 11-9, 11-8, 10-12, 7-11, 4-11 to B.C.’s Spring Ma. She’ll now play for bronze today at 11 a.m. ET.

“I’ve had a lot of trouble putting expectations on myself,” Shaheen told High Achievers columnist Martin Cleary before the Games. “I will try to focus and ask, ‘Did I play well?’”

Featuring six Hockey Eastern Ontario players in its lineup, the Ontario male hockey team led 2-0 in their preliminary round match against Alberta but wound up falling 3-2 in overtime.

Matthew Freitag had an excellent start to his short-track speed skating competition. The Ottawa Pacers athlete finished second and first in his male 500 metres heats, and first and second in the 1,500 m to reach the semi-finals in both events.

Rounding out the day for the Ottawa contingent was Alexander Don in the male synchro trampoline event. The Tumblers Gymnastics Centre athlete combined with Ontario teammate Declan Highstead to qualify for the final with their sixth-place preliminary-round ranking, but they didn’t make it through all of their final routine, finishing eighth.

Day 4 Preview: Medals up for grabs

Today, weather permitting, a trio of lifelong long-track speed skating friends will add another experience to the resume.

Rachel Mallard of the Ottawa Pacers and Gloucester Concordes skaters Daria Vogt and Brielle Durham will step on the ice at 11:30 a.m. ET for the female 1,500 m race, taking their journey from childhood friends to burgeoning elite athletes one step further.

Left to right: Brielle Durham, Rachel Mallard, Daria Vogt. Photo provided

The group has been training together since they were eight and are currently in their first year of studies at the University of Calgary. They’re also training at the Olympic Oval in the city as part of the Elite Athlete Pathway program.

“We grew up in the sport together,” said Mallard, who is studying neuroscience. “We’ve been through this whole journey together … They’re some of my best friends.”

The trio will also compete together in the team pursuit race on Wednesday.

While his slopestyle event yesterday was postponed, Matthew Lepine will get his first Games action today beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET in the big air event. Lepine, 14, will be the youngest competitor.

There will also be additional action in artistic gymnastics (10 a.m. ET), squash (11 a.m. ET), wheelchair basketball (12 p.m. ET), female curling (1 p.m. ET), male hockey (3 p.m. ET) and ringette (4:30 p.m. ET).

You can stream all the action live at canadagames.ca/watch.

Our Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games central webpage has links to all the schedules, and all of our Games coverage, in one place:

OttawaSportsPages.ca/Ottawa-at-the-2023-Canada-Winter-Games/

(This article was first sent to subscribers of the free Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it below!)

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