In a sense, 15 year-old triathlete Aiden MacKenzie might well have captured the collective sense of the Sudbury delegation, some 42 strong, that will compete this week at the 2018 Ontario Summer Games in London later this week.
“It shouldn't feel different, but it does, for some reason.”
The reality for all of these young athletes is that competition, across the province, has been part of their DNA for quite some time now. Many of the adversaries they face in the course of completing a typical schedule, for their sport, are likely to also be in attendance in London.
But there is no denying that any set of Games, those events that are accompanied by the uniqueness of a fairly elaborate Opening Ceremonies presentation, offers something of a twist for teens from northern Ontario and all other corners of the province.
“It just feels more intense, it's what you've trained for,” stated MacKenzie. “Staying at a hotel with other people who are doing the same event as you, it's kind of an exciting feeling.” One of two members of the Sudbury Triple Threat Triathon Club to take part – accomplished swimmer and triathlete Isabelle Mastroianni is the other – MacKenzie is not shying away at all from targeting a very specific performance goal this week.
“My goal is top ten, I am aiming for a top ten finish,” he stated, a nice solid aspiration in a field that will number 24 strong. “My swimming has been getting better the past couple of years, being on a swim team (Valley East Waves) now. This year, I haven't been getting out of the water near the bottom. I've been getting out near the high to middle of the pack.”
Still with the water sports, local representatives will take part in a few different aquatic adventures. Four members of the Sudbury Yacht Club – Michael Yao and Catherine Caverson in 420, Avery Chisholm and Brianna Ritchie in laser – will make their way over to the Fanshawe Conservation Area, while the sprint kayak duo of Paris Macey and Evan Volpini are using the same venue, closer to the Watershed Conservation Centre.
Moving indoors, both the local basketball and volleyball communities will have plenty of athletes to cheer for, with court sports accounting for no less than 26 participants from these parts. Former Laurentian Voyageur Mitchell Mazzuca will guide a boys hoops team into action that features Liam Conlin, Richie Daley, Pascal Dumont, Charlie Hennessy, Eric Sauvé, Dax Mazzuchin, Ethan Scott and Abdallah Koulbou on the roster.
Maike Purdoh, Gabrielle Tiango, Ali Bertrim, Elaina Allen, Elliot Tissot van Patot, Charlotte Church and Sophie Moore are among the 12 girl delegation that will suit up for Nipissing Lakers' student assistant coach Rachel Van Woezik as the Team North basketball crew competes in a round robin pool with Niagara, Capital (Ottawa) and St Clair.
With the Northern Chill Volleyball Club now into its second decade of existence, no surprise that the Region 2 team welcomes aboard a half-roster of Sudburians – Emma Coutu, Haven Fournier, Brianne Perreault, Alexia Lemay-Evans, Grace Perrier and Rory Frantz – in addition to local coaches Sheldon Root and Heather Hastie.
Perhaps even more encouraging was the surge forward in local talent that is penciled in with coach Luc Larocque (Sturgeon Falls) and the boys volleyball team as Josh Gascon, Miguel Leclair, Mathieu Lemieux, Noah Perreault and Noah Squires form a nice leap from the two-athlete Sudbury grouping back in 2016.
Moving to the outdoor variation of the sport, both Josée Beauchamp and Sydney Nicholls are in London for the beach volleyball competition, along with Chill club coach Denny Chicoine. The great outdoors is also the setting for Walden Mountain Bike Club Wolfpak Racing team member Luukas Ovaska, a home-schooled 17 year old who has now been competing on the Ontario Cup circuit for a couple of years.
“In 2014 or so, I set myself goal to ride twenty kilometers a day,” noted the local talent, discussing his introduction to the world of cycling, in general. “I rode twenty kilometers a day, every day, that summer. If I had to miss a day for any reason, I would do forty kilometers the next day to make up for it.”
“I always loved mountain biking, but never really had a full suspension mountain bike, so I saved up and bought myself a $2000 full suspension trail bike and rode the crap out of that thing. I went to one (mountain bike) race with Tim Tindall. I was fourth out of six, I think, but it was a super-fun race, I really enjoyed it – but I realized the bike was way too heavy to be racing.”
“The next year, I upgraded to a carbon race bike, and that was my first year on the circuit, last year.” As for the competition being staged at Boler Mountain, the Summer Games will offer some new experiences for the WMBC member who is making rapid headway in O-Cup events.
“I'm really looking forward to the short-track race, because I've never done short track or eliminator or any of those other events,” said Ovaska. “I'm really interested to see how that runs out.”
There will also be plenty of Sudbury interest in play at City Wide Sports Park, site of the boys baseball playdowns. Newly annointed Laurentian Voyageur head coach Brodie Jeffery boasts a Sudbury foundation that includes first year bantams Scooter Rienguette, Cole McPhee, Brett Richardson and Cole Goudreau, as well as 16U Voyageurs Dylan Anctil, Gavin Roy, Braedan Pakkala, Yanick Loiselle, Anthony Signorile and Jacob Larivière.
Cracking the 15U Barrie Baycats roster this summer, Sudbury native Carter Benson will be over in the other pool, part of the York Simcoe Baseball Association all-star team in attendance. Finally, rounding out our nickel city focus is the golf tandem of Lea Lemieux and Matthew Matheson, as well as Sudbury Lady Wolves forwards Kelsey Dunn, Chloe Leduc and defenseman Elizabeth Laberge.
This list was compiled on a “best effort” basis, reaching out to the countless contacts that have been accumulated over the years. If anyone has been inadvertently missed, kindly email Randy Pascal at email@example.com and I will be sure to include the correction in my very next column.