By Martin Cleary
The Nakkertok Nordic Ski Centre scored a major victory last week and its talented group of cross-country skiers didn’t even have to snap into their skis.
The country’s best cross-country skiers will gather in March 2024 for the Canadian championships, after Nordiq Canada rewarded Évenements Nordiques Gatineau Nordic Events (ENGNE) the rights to the next nationals.
ENGNE was formed in 2016 by Chelsea Nordiq Ski Club, Nakkertok Nordic Ski Association, Club Skinouk and the Gatineau Loppet to play host to, organize and promote major cross-country competitions.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to bring our ski community together with our passionate community in the Gatineau region – an area that has been instrumental to the growth of cross-country skiing in Canada, while developing many of Canada’s best athletes – for the 96th edition of our biggest event in the country,” Nordiq Canada sport development director Julie Beaulieu said in a press release.
The Canadian championships, which were last staged at Nakkertok Nordic in 2019, will attract more than 700 senior, junior and para-nordic skiers. They will race in sprint, distance and team sprint competitions.
Nakkertok is especially looking forward to having nationals on its home courses. It will be striving for its 13th consecutive club championship. Nakkertok’s latest club victory was its 12th in a row as well as its closest earlier this month in Thunder Bay.
Read More: Nakkertok survives fierce competition for 12th straight national nordic club title
“We know our partners at ENGNE are sure to create a memorable experience for athletes, coaches and fans alike at one of Canada’s most coveted cross-country ski venues for our national championships,” Beaulieu added.
ENGNE president John Halvorsen, a two-time track Olympian and former president and race director for Run Ottawa, was ecstatic to welcome the Canadian championships back to Western Quebec.
“This is thanks to the strong co-operation between our public partners and the ENGNE club leaders, who recognize our shared vision and expertise through the ENGNE structure,” he said in the release.
“We are confident we can continue to grow the profile of cross-country skiing not just in Canada’s capital region, but also nationally. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to again play host to Canada’s best in 2024.”
ANTOINE CYR CAPS WORLD CUP SEASON WITH FOURTH TOP-10 RESULT
Gatineau’s Antoine Cyr, who competes for Skinouk, signed off on his spectacular 2022-23 cross-country ski season by recording his fourth top-10 World Cup result in Lahti, Finland.
Cyr finished eighth in the men’s 20-kilometre mass-start, classic race in 44 minutes, 21.4 seconds.
His three other World Cup top-10 finishes were a fourth in a 15-kilometre mass-start and a sixth in a sprint during the Tour de Ski in Italy as well as an eighth in a 20-kilometre mass start in France.
At the world championships, Cyr and teammate Graham Ritchie were an impressive fourth in the team sprint event.
Cyr’s final race of the World Cup season saw him finish only two seconds off a bronze medal and eight seconds behind the winner.
“For sure, this is a breakout season,” Cyr told Nordic Canada. “I was not on this level last year. We are knocking on the door, and I believe we will be on the podium soon enough.
“As a skier, you know you can be up there, but until you’ve done it, you always have doubts. I started to think: ‘What is the best result I can do?’ Being in the top-10 a few times, we have shown that we are there as a nation.”
Johannes Klaebo of Norway was the men’s champion in Lahti in 44:13.0 and was followed by Norway’s Paal Golberg, 44:18.4, and Sweden’s William Poromaa, 44:19.0.
“This shows we are up there and that is good for the rest of the squad,” Cyr added. “I hope everyone uses this as a confidence boost and as a tight knit group we will push forward together.
“We had by far the smallest tech group on the World Cup and all the staff work their butts off. The techs and the staff are a big part of this.”
Nakkertok Nordic’s Katherine Stewart-Jones of Chelsea completed the women’s 20-kilometre mass-start classic race in 54:10.7 for 37th place. Anne Kalvaa of Norway was first in 51:04.3.
TORI ZEMMELINK WINS FIRST TWO MATCHES AT NATIONAL JUNIORS
Navan Curling Club’s Tori Zemmelink is off to a positive start at the Canadian women’s junior (U21) curling championship in Rouyn-Noranda, PQ.
Zemmelink, third Paige Bown, second Kailee Delaney and lead Scotia Maltman are tied for the lead in their pool at 2-0, after defeating the No. 2 Manitoba rink skipped by Grace Beaudry 6-5, with a single point in the 10th end and a one-sided 11-1 decision over Northwest Territories’ Reese Wainman in eight ends.
RCMP Curling Club’s Jayden King evened his men’s junior pool record at 1-1 with a 7-5 victory over Thomas Reed, who skips the No. 2 British Columbia rink. King conceded his opening match one end early as Nathan Young, the No. 2 Newfoundland/Labrador squad, stole one in the ninth to finish a 7-2 victory.
RACHEL HOMAN, TYLER TARDI REACH NATIONAL MIXED DOUBLES SEMIS
Ottawa Curling Club’s Rachel Homan and Tyler Tardi won eight of their 10 matches and reached the semifinals of the Canadian mixed doubles curling championship in Sudbury.
After defeating Saskatoon’s Patricia Hersikorn and Steve Laycock 7-5 in the opening playoff round and Chaelynn Kitz and Brayden Stewart of Wawota, SK., 6-5 in the quarterfinals, Homan and Tardi were eliminated in the semifinals 6-5 by eventual champions Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing of the Barrie Curling Club. Jones and Laing scored one in the eighth and final end to move into the final.
The Ottawa Valley Curling Association also was represented by two other rinks in the quarterfinals.
Lisa Weagle of the Ottawa Curling Club and John Epping of Toronto’s Leaside Curling Club lost to Jones and Laing 7-2, while Lynn Kreviazuk and David Mathers of the Ottawa Curling Club fell to eventual finalists Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant of Chestermere, AB., 8-1 in a match that ended after five ends.
COLLINDA JOSEPH FINISHES FIFTH AT WHEELCHAIR CURLING NATIONALS
Collinda Joseph of Stittsville played third for Jon Thurston’s King Curling Club rink and the Ontario No. 1 team placed fifth at the Canadian wheelchair curling championship in Moose Jaw, SK.
Thurston’s rink was third in its pool at 3-2, but finished the championship pool at 5-3 for fifth-place overall. Second Karl Allen and lead Chrissy Molnar completed Thurston’s rink.
Earlier this month, Joseph and Dennis Thiessen defeated China 13-11 to win the bronze medal at the world wheelchair mixed doubles curling championship in Richmond, B.C.
MADDI WHEELER STRIKES NCAA WOMEN’S HOCKEY GOLD AGAIN
For the second time in her three-year career at the University of Wisconsin, Maddi Wheeler of Erinsville, ON., is an NCAA Division 1 women’s hockey champion.
The Badgers earned their seventh national title by using a first-period goal from Kirsten Simms for a 1-0 win over defending champion Ohio State University Buckeyes. Wheeler had one shot on goal in the final.
A product of the Nepean Junior Wildcats’ hockey program, Wheeler helped the Badgers win the national championship in 2020.
Wheeler, who scored nine goals and added 19 assists for Wisconsin in 42 games this season, had an assist in the Badgers’ 3-2 overtime semifinal win against the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.
In the other semifinal, Ohio State blanked Northeastern University Huskies 3-0. Defenceman Lily Yovetich, who formerly played for the Junior Ottawa Lady Senators, plays for the Huskies.
In her 95 games over three seasons with Northeastern, Yovetich has counted 16 assists.
FORMER TEAMMATES MEET IN NCAA MEN’S HOCKEY QUARTERFINAL
Four years ago, John Copeland and Zach Tupker were forwards playing for the Central Canada Hockey League’s Carleton Place Canadians.
During the NCAA men’s regional hockey tournament in Manchester, New Hampshire, they were opponents as Copeland’s Boston University Terriers edged Tupker’s Cornell University Big Red 2-1.
The Terriers will advance to the Frozen Four national championship tournament April 6-8 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Their semifinal opponent will be the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, while the Quinnipiac University Bobcats will face the University of Michigan Wolverines.
MERISSAH RUSSELL HELPS LOUISVILLE REACH ELITE EIGHT
The Sweet 16 was certainly that for University of Louisville Cardinals junior guard Merissah Russell, but the Elite Eight was not so great at the NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball tournament.
Louisville only trailed by five points at halftime, but the University of Iowa Hawkeyes owned the second half and surged into the Final Four with a convincing 97-83 victory.
Russell came off the bench for 22 minutes of floor time and posted five rebounds, four points and two assists.
The Cardinals advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals with a 72-62 win over Ole Miss Rebels in the Sweet-16 round. Russell counted eight points, four rebounds and one assist in her 21 minutes on the floor.
Freshman Cassandre Prosper, who like Russell is a graduate of the Capital Courts Academy program based at Cairine Wilson Secondary School, played 36 minutes for Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 round, but the Fighting Irish dropped a 76-59 decision to the University of Maryland.
Prosper registered eight points, six rebounds and one assist.
LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST
· Recurve archer Eric Peters of Ottawa will compete in his seventh career World Cup archery competition, when he travels to Antalya, Turkey, for the April 18-23 international meet.
· Gloucester’s Gabriela Dabrowski has been selected to Canada’s women’s tennis team with Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Leylah Annie Fernandez of Laval, PQ., and Rebecca Marino of Vancouver for the Billie Jean King Cup qualifying match against Belgium April 14-15 in Vancouver. The winner advances to the Cup finals in November.
· Ottawa cyclist Michael Woods of Israel-Premier Tech finished sixth overall in the seven-stage Volta Ciclista a Catalunya tour race in Spain. He had three top-10 results, including a seventh in Stage 3.
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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