Pearl Gloves selected as 2016's top sports event in Niagara
Brock University wrestling coach Marty Calder is being inducted into the Wrestling Canada Hall of Fame Saturday in St. Catharines.
St. Catharines may be swept up in curling and teams throughout the region preparing for the junior B hockey playoffs, but golf was a big part of the menu at the Sport Niagara awards breakfast.
Niagara college’s golf team was selected as team of the year for 2016 and Beechwood golf pro John White received the inaugural Chuck Smith Sportsperson of the Year Award as the Niagara Sport Commission recognized achievement on and off the field.
Josiah Dixon, an academic all-Canadian and the national and Ontario golf medallist in college golf last year, was a nominee for 2016’s top male athlete and Cameron Thin, his coach at Niagara, in the running for the coaching of the year honours.
White paid tribute to everyone who has supported him over his 26-year career at the Niagara Falls course and as director of the Niagara Junior Golf Tour, which is entering its 25th season this summer.
White quipped that methods to teach golfers may have to change to keep pace with technology in a digital world in which the hunger for information is insatiable.
“I’m going to have to teach them how to swing one-handed, so they wouldn’t have to put their cellphones down.”
He pointed out that 70 golfers went on to play at colleges and universities in the U.S. after graduating from the junior tour. White, however, was equally proud of everyone who benefitted from competing on the tour.
“They went on to become fine men and women in their communities,” he said at a presentation ceremony held Thursday morning at Club Roma in St. Catharines.
Niagara College’s golfers beat out two provincial high school champions — the A.N. Myer Marauders, football; Jean Vanier Lynx, senior girls basketball — in the team of the year categories.
In 2016, Thin, a golf pro at St. Catharines Golf and Country Club, led the Knights to two national and four provincial medals, as well as eight top-three finishes at invitational tournaments.
Dixon and teammate Lorelle Weavers also finished near the top of the leaderboard in the classroom. Both were recognized by the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) as academic all-Canadians for averaging more than 80 per cent in their classes at the region’s community college.
Runner Mohammed Ahmed, whose fourth-place showing in the 5 km at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero was the best-ever finish for a Canadian, was selected as Niagara’s 2016 male athlete of the year.
Brock University rower Matthew Finley, the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) male rower of the year and a provincial gold medallist, also was nominated, as was Welland mixed martial arts fighter Anthony Romero, who went 5-0 and won every round in the cage competing for Modern Vision Mixed Martial Arts.
Ahmed, a St. Catharines Collegiate graduate who went to the University of Wisconsin, is in Arizona training as part of a Nike-sponsored pro running team and was not able to attend Thursday’s ceremony.
AWARDS from D1
Accepting the award and passing along remarks from the Olympian and holder of three Canadian records was Alex Acs, Ahmed’s Grade 9 cross country coach at Collegiate.
“I have been a nomad for the past seven years, but St. Catharines and Niagara will always be my home,” said Acs, speaking on Ahmed’s behalf.
The morning ceremony was a busman’s holiday for the runner’s mother, Halima Farah, who works at Club Roma.
Natalie Mastracci, who represented Canada in the Olympics for the second time and placed fifth in the women’s eight at the Rio Games, is the region’s top female athlete for 2016.
She edged St. Catharines Rowing Club teammate Carly Zanatta, Michelle Prince of the Ridley Graduate Boat Club and Brock University wrestler Olivia Di Bacco for the honour.
Di Bacco’s coach, Marty Calder, was chosen as 2016’s top coach from a short list that included Frank DeChellis, men’s and women’s soccer at Niagara College; Poulin, senior girls high school basketball at Jean Vanier in Welland; Dave Wright, St. Catharines Rowing Club; and Thin.
The win was Calder’s third in the five-year history of the Sport Niagara awards and his first since 2014.
Pearl Gloves, a charity event that featured white-collar boxers “stretching themselves to their limits” in the ring, raised $66,000 for the fight against multiple sclerosis and delivered a knockout punch in the event of the year category.
Also was nominated was Brock’s Steel Blade Classic, which was played before 3,532 fans, a record for men’s university hockey at Meridian Centre.
Lonnie Bissonnette, the current world champion in para bobsleigh and the first person to jump off all four base-jumping objects in a wheelchair, is the para athlete of the year for Niagara in 2016.
Bocce player Joshua Gautier of the Ontario silver medallist Brock Niagara Penguins and runners Julianne Miszk and Kyle Whitehouse, both with Niagara Regional Athletics, were the other deserving nominees in a category that featured the most-inspiring accomplishments.
Miszk placed four in cross country at the Ontario high school track and field championships only three days after undergoing chemotherapy for a rare form of cancer.
Keynote speaker and two-time cancer survivor Bryan Mudryk’s remarks likewise had the audience turning what they perceived as mountains in their lives into molehills.
“Cancer changes your perspective. We’re all either living or diving, so choose life,” said the TSN personality who is in St. Catharines to do the play-by-play at the Scotties Tournament national women’s curling championships.
“If I can make it from Nowhere, Alberta, you all can if you persevere and go after your dreams.”
Mudryk is from Boyle, Alta., where he hosts an annual charity golf tournament that over the past 15 years has raised $1.7 million for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
While Mudryk grew up as an Edmonton Oilers fan, he also was keenly interested in sports broadcasting.
Perhaps even more.
He admitted when he saw Wayne Gretzky and TSN personality Chris Cuthbert for the first time they were sitting together at a restaurant.”
“I asked Wayne if he could take a picture of Chris and me.”