Community Clubs Curling Gymnastics Hockey Racquet Sports Ringette Skating Skiing

Ottawa @ CWG Day 6: Matthew Freitag surprises everyone with short track silver medal

~~~~~~~~~ Advertisement ~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~ Advertisement ~~~~~~~~~

(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 6 Recap: Matthew Freitag surprises everyone with short track silver medal

By Mark Colley

When Matthew Freitag passed Alexis Bélanger, then Samuel Darveau, then crossed the line with a scream and hug for teammate and now-gold medalist Adam Law, he hadn’t just surprised everyone watching. He also surprised himself.

Starting in the fourth lane and rounding the first four corners as the last racer, the Ottawa Pacers athlete made an improbable push from last to second to win the silver medal in the male short track 500 metre race on Thursday.

“It was a surprise for me,” Freitag said. “I was pretty nervous because … I’ve actually never been in an A final at this sort of level before, so [I was] just trying to stay calm and the race ended up working out.”

Matthew Freitag (left) won silver in the male short track speed skating 500 metre final. Photo: Bimal Grewal / Canada Winter Games

His strategy from the start was to follow the rest of the pack and “hope for the best,” he said. While none of his competitors fell, as he knew was possible, he managed to take advantage of some openings to dart into second.

~~~~~~~~~ Advertisement ~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~ Advertisement ~~~~~~~~~

Freitag embraced Ontario teammate Law after the one-two finish, skating around the rink and high-fiving with a coach.

“[Law] and I talked about [finishing first and second] a lot and he actually dreamed about it a couple days before,” Freitag said. “We kinda joked about it, just because … it’s a bit surprising for me to end up in that position.”

It’s surprising because of Freitag’s lack of experience at this level, he explained. Prior to the Games, the Nepean High School student had competed in only one senior competition in his life.

When he first started in the sport at age seven, Freitag was the fastest on the ice. But as he entered his teenage years, he started slipping down the pack.

That started to change about two years ago, when he started putting up good personal bests.

“If anyone were to look at me a few years ago, or even one year ago, they’d say I wasn’t all that,” Freitag said. “But maybe now, they would say I have a decent amount of potential.”

Still, Freitag is small — “always have been,” he said. When asked the moment he realized he was talented in speed skating and could pursue it further, Freitag joked, “Today.”

Alex Don helps Ontario to another silver medal

When Alex Don was younger, he fell out of a tree.

That might not seem relevant to him winning silver with Ontario in the team trampoline event on Thursday, but don’t worry — it is.

Don started as an artistic gymnast at a young age, but when he fell out of that tree, he broke his arm. Even after it healed, it continued to give him issues in artistic gymnastics. So when his coach, Nick Grimard, opened up his Laws of Motion club that included trampoline, he decided to switch.

“From that day on, I just kind of fell in love with the sport,” Don said.

Eight years on, Don – now 20 – can thank that tree for his accomplishments in trampoline.

Winning silver feels “amazing,” said Don, who’d earlier placed eighth in the synchro event and seventh individually.

“I’m very proud of not only myself but the rest of my teammates,” he explained. “They did an incredible job and … I’m very grateful to be put in this opportunity to be able to represent my province.”

He can also thank his current coach at Tumblers Gymnastics Centre, Yann Prigent, who helped him get to where he is today.

“It’s 95 [percent] him that is displayed when I’m jumping,” Don said. “It’s all his knowledge that made me how I am now and it’s just me putting that extra five [percent] and kind of doing it how I want to do it.”

Alex Don during his trampoline competition. Photo: Nora Mathewson / Canada Winter Games

In his earlier events, Don fell in both times and was unable to complete his full routines.

“It’s part of the sport. It happens,” he said. “I’m just glad I could experience this and the Games themselves have been incredible.”

Don started training with his synchro partner Declan Highstead only a few weeks ago at a training camp. Highstead hails from Pickering, Ont., meaning the pair lives more than four hours apart and was tasked with becoming competitive in just a few weeks time.

“It was definitely a big feat to have in our hands,” Don said, explaining that they had a day or two of training in P.E.I. to prepare. “For us to even make finals is amazing.”

Outside of gymnastics, Don went to Algonquin College for fitness and health promotion. But he’s been focused on trampoline for the time being and doesn’t know what’s next right now.

“This is really fun,” underlined the Cairine Wilson Secondary School grad. “I want to keep doing this and I want to keep pushing myself harder and harder every day.”

Mallard races home for Ottawa’s third silver of the day

Ottawa also added another medal to its tally yesterday with Rachel Mallard’s second place finish in the female long track 3000 metre race. She finished less than eight seconds behind the gold medalist.

“I thought that if I made it on the podium, I would’ve come third,” she said. “I am pretty over the moon with it and I’m really happy to share this with my teammates and also people back home.”

Rachel Mallard (left) celebrates her silver medal. Photo: Frank Scheme / Canada Winter Games

Mallard said the 3,000 is her best event, so she knew it was her best shot at the podium.

The medal comes as Ottawa’s first in long track speed skating, where Brielle Durham and Daria Vogt — lifelong friends of Mallard’s — are also competing.

“I’ve loved sharing it with them, just all the ups and downs,” highlighted Mallard, who placed fifth in the team pursuit with her mates. “We’ve been going through it as a team, just helping each other through it … [They’ve] really been helping me mentally get through the Games.”

Mallard is walking in big footsteps, following one of her inspirations and Olympic gold medalist Isabelle Weidemann. Racing on the same track in Halifax at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, Weidemann earned a fourth place finish in the 3,000 metres, which was a major breakthrough for her at the time.

“They’ve been super inspirational for me and motivating me every day to chase my goals,” Mallard said. “It’s been super helpful for me as an athlete.”

Mallard will compete in the female mass start and 1,000-metre final today to conclude the long track speed skating meet.

Male hockey into medal round, ringette & curling out

The theme of the season for the Ava Acres Team Ontario curling rink has been a rollercoaster ride of ups-and-downs, and they experienced both yesterday in the Canada Winter Games female curling competition.

Needing a win to advance to the playoff round, the RCMP Curling Club lineup of skip Ava Acres, third Aila Thompson, second Liana Flanagan and lead Mya Sharpe blasted out to a 9-1 lead after four ends to dominate their round robin finale with B.C.

But Team Acres fell behind 4-0 to Alberta in their evening quarter-final before they got on the board. They ultimately missed out on their shot at a medal with a 6-3 loss.

The contrasting results mirrored the Ottawa team’s season as a whole. Acres went undefeated to win Ontario’s Canada Games trials competition, but missed out on the U18 national championships with a pair of heartbreaking losses in games where they could have clinched their trip.

There was one more high note earlier this month when they won the Ontario Winter Games in Renfrew County, and the team can always look at the gold medals they’ve got in their back pockets to lift their spirits.

The Ontario Winter Games champions went on to experience a double-Games month as the Ava Acres RCMP Curling Club rink competed at the Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island. File photo

The Ontario ringette team can certainly relate to the curlers’ experience. After outscoring their opponents by a combined 17 goals en route to a perfect record in pool play, Ontario was stonewalled by Quebec in yesterday’s quarter-final 8-4.

Ottawa players had all of Ontario’s goals in the losing cause. Laiya Evraire scored a pair, while Danika Osborne and Julia Wilson had one apiece. The 10-member Ottawa contingent will now fight for fifth-to-eighth place in their last matches today and tomorrow.

The Ontario male hockey team, featuring six Hockey Eastern Ontario players, beat New Brunswick 5-2 in the quarterfinals. Maasilan Etchart scored in the contest, while Quinn Beauchesne Peter Legostaev each had an assist. They’ll take on British Columbia in this evening’s semi-final at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Iman Shaheen kept up her winning ways in the team squash event, defeating her opponent 11-9, 11-1 and 11-2 to help Ontario to a 4-0 win over Manitoba. The win gives Ontario two points in the final round robin, which will conclude Saturday.

After winning team gold Tuesday, gymnast Cléante Théorêt placed 12th in the female all-around competition. She’ll be back today to compete in event finals.

In biathlon, Antoine Gendron and Will Ng finished 21st and 25th respectively in the male 12.5 kilometre race, while Ella Niedre finished seventh in the female 10 kilometre event. The biathletes have mixed relay events on both Friday and Saturday to conclude their Canada Games calendar.

Day 7 Preview: Turnau looks to fly high in moguls

Freestyle Calabogie’s Aaron Turnau is one of five local athletes hitting the slopes between the freestyle and alpine skiing disciplines at the PEI 2023 Canada Winter Games. Photo: Aria Loewen

It was love at first sight for Aaron Turnau and moguls freestyle skiing. He was nine years old when he watched his first mogul competition at Calabogie Peaks, but he decided then that it was the sport for him.

Flash forward eight years and Turnau will be competing in the male moguls event today, starting at 10 a.m. ET. Turnau previously finished eighth in the male aerials event on Sunday.

“I am very excited. It is like the Winter Olympics on a national level,” Turnau said before the Games. “It will also be cool to watch the other events and see the level of skill from the other athletes.”

As noted earlier, Ottawa athletes will also be competing in biathlon, gymnastics, hockey, ringette, speed skating and squash. Des O’Shaughnessy and Team Ontario will also play a wheelchair basketball consolation semi-final.

Event livestreams are available at

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

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

By clicking on the submit button, you consent to receive the above newsletter from the Ottawa Sports Pages. You may unsubscribe by clicking on the link at the bottom of our emails. Ottawa Sports Pages | 345 Meadowbreeze Dr., Kanata, Ont., K2M 0K3 | 613-261-5838

HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.

Leave a Reply