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U SPORTS alumni sweep, shoot and skate their way to 2018 Winter Olympics

Megan McPhaden

(Credit: Curling Canada/Michael Burns, Speed Skating Canada/Dave Holland)

 

With the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics officially kicking off Friday, 62 members of Team Canada with ties to U SPORTS member universities and athletic programs will march in the Opening Ceremony and compete for gold. Among them are 21 athletes that competed in U SPORTS-sanctioned sports or attended a previous Winter Universiade. We sat down with former McGill women’s hockey captain Mélodie Daoust, along with Marc Kennedy and Keri Morrison, who both competed at the Winter Universiade before achieving their Olympic dreams.

Marc Kennedy

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Hometown:
St. Albert, Alta.
University: University of Alberta
Sport: Curling
Highlights: Won gold at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and gold at the Tarvisio 2003 Winter Universiade
Fun fact: played football for the Alberta Golden Bears

 

Curler Marc Kennedy first wore the maple leaf in international competition was at the 2003 Winter Universiade in Tarvisio, Italy. The team, skipped by Mike McEwen, won the gold medal and helped boost the profile of university curling, then in its infancy. Kennedy credits the experience with helping him become comfortable with competing overseas.

“It was also the first experience I had with living up to the pressure that comes with curling for Canada and the expectations of winning,” he said.

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The Winter Universiade is a major international competition that draws elite university student-athletes from around the world. Canada has had success on Universiade curling sheets, having claimed seven medals, five in women’s and two in men’s.

Kennedy  feels the Universiade is a “huge stepping stone” for young curlers.

The Universiade gives them an opportunity to continue growing their skills before they can jump in and play against the best teams in the world.

Kennedy

Fifteen years after winning gold in Tarvisio, Kennedy met his former teammate McEwen in the final of the Olympic trials in December. In a nail-biting 10th end, Kennedy’s team skipped by Kevin Koe buried McEwen and company’s Olympic dreams. The win booked return tickets to the Olympic Games for Kennedy and his teammate Ben Hebert, both having won gold with legendary curler Kevin Martin in Vancouver.

“There’s always some type of history with the guys that we’re playing big games against,” Kennedy explains. “You push each other to improve and that’s what’s made Canadian curling so incredible over the last decade.”

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Canada’s men’s curling team will be looking to add a fourth consecutive gold medal in the event when they compete in the PyeongChang Olympics. The Canadians are facing an increasingly deeper and experienced field of competition this year and will have a difficult task ahead to keep the gold medal streak alive, one they have held since the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Kennedy says his team is in a “good spot right now” ahead of the Opening Ceremony

Mélodie Daoust

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Hometown:
Valleyfield, Que.
University: McGill University
Sport: Women’s hockey
Highlights: Won gold at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, was a four-time U SPORTS Academic All-Canadian
Fun fact: Captained the McGill Martlets for two seasons

Hockey superstar Mélodie Daoust calls McGill the “greatest university in Canada.” The Valleyfield, Que., native spent five seasons with the Martlets, winning three RSEQ conference titles and making four national championship appearances.

Playing for McGill was a great opportunity for me to showcase U SPORTS and all those female student-athletes in Canada that hoped to be at the Olympics one day.

Daoust

Daoust was in the middle of her degree when she redshirted for the 2013-14 season to be part of Team Canada’s centralization roster and represent her country at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

“After Sochi, I was kind of on a cloud,” she says. “I think it was just the greatest experience of my life.”

A year after graduating with a degree in physical education, Daoust had some advice for incoming student-athletes.

“Enjoy every single moment, I wish I could go back for a sixth year,” she says, also encouraging students to “make every day count.”

Daoust has left an indelible mark on the McGill sports community. When she won the Brodrick Trophy for U SPORTS Player of the Year in 2013 after just her second season, her coach at McGill, Peter Smith, praised her for her leadership and playmaking ability.

“A strong leader by example, she practices, prepares and plays with tremendous intensity and focus,” Smith said at the time.

The veteran forward will be looking to add another medal to the gold she has from Sochi when she joins the team in South Korea.

Keri Morrison

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Hometown:
Burlington, Ont.
University: University of Calgary
Sport: Long track speed skating
Highlights: Won bronze in the 3000m relay at 2015 Universiade in Granada, Spain.
Fun fact: Switched from short track to long track two years ago

Every four years, the University of Calgary consistently has a heavy presence of alumni or students named to the Canadian Olympic Team, and this year is no different. The school is an obvious choice for athletes competing in winter sports thanks to existing facilities from the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.

First-time Olympic speed skater Keri Morrison says the close proximity of the facilities to the campus made it a lot easier for her to manage school and sport at the same time.

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“The oval is attached to the kinesiology complex,” Morrison says. “I could get off the ice and within 15 minutes run to class.”

Although speed skating is not a U SPORTS-sanctioned event, it is often one of the sports that Canada competes in at the Winter Universiade. Keri got her first taste of international competition at the 2013 Universiade in Trentino, Italy.

Two years later, she improved upon her performances in short track, capturing a bronze medal with the 3000m relay team and finishing fourth in the 1500m at the 2015 Universiade in Granada, Spain.

To date, she says her 1500m race in 2015 is one of her most memorable.

That was a really proud accomplishment for me, it kind of felt like I was racing against world cup competitors, so I was super proud to be that close to getting a bronze medal.

Morrison

Her parents and brother will be on hand to watch her compete in her first Olympic Games.

-With files from Declan Riley

Athletes with U SPORTS/Universiade experience

Name Olympic Sport School U SPORTS-sanctioned
sport (If different)
Joanne Courtney Curling Alberta  
Brent Laing Curling Laurier  
Marc Kennedy* Curling Alberta Football
John Morris Curling Laurier  
Kaitlyn Lawes Curling Manitoba  
Natalie Spooner** Hockey UOIT  
Melodie Daoust Hockey McGill  
Keri Morrison* Long Track Calgary  
Heather Moyse Bobsleigh Waterloo/Toronto Track and field,
Soccer & rugby
Christine de Bruin Bobsleigh Alberta Track and field
Melissa Lotholtz Bobsleigh Alberta Track and Field
Nick Poloniatio Bobsleigh Bishop’s Football
Jesse Lumsden Bobsleigh McMaster Football
Neville Wright* Bobsleigh Alberta Track and field
Ben Coakwell Bobsleigh Saskatchewan Football
Alex Kopacz Bobsleigh Western Track and field
Alysia Rissling Bobsleigh Alberta Basketball
Bryan Barnett Bobsleigh Alberta Track and field
David Bisset Bobsleigh Alberta Track and field & Football
Mirela Rahneva Skeleton Guelph Rugby
Anne-Marie Comeau Cross Country Skiing Laval Cross Country

*Former Universiade participant

**Player mentor/coach with UOIT women’s hockey

Alumni of U SPORTS institutions

Name Olympic Sport School
Sarah Beaudry Biathlon Thompson Rivers
Nathan Smith Biathlon Calgary
Kassandra Bradette Short Track UQAM
Jamie MacDonald Short Track Calgary
Pascal Dion Short Track UQAM
Francois Hamelin Short Track UQAM
Marsha Hudey Long Track Calgary
Kaylin Irvine Long Track Calgary
Heather McLean Long Track Calgary
Josi Morrison Long Track Calgary
Isabelle Weidemann Long Track Calgary
Jordan Belchos Long Track Calgary
Alex Bisvert-Lacroix Long Track Calgary
Vincent De Haître Long Track Calgary
Laurent Dubreuil Long Track Laval
Olivier Jean Long Track UQAM
Gilmore Junio Long Track Calgary
Denny Morrison Long Track Calgary
Alexandre St- Jean Long Track Laval
Kevin Koe Curling Calgary
Marc Kennedy Curling Alberta
Rachel Homan Curling Alberta / Ottawa
Emma Miskew Curling Carleton
Lisa Weagle Curling Ottawa
Alex Gough Luge Calgary
Tristan Walk Luge Calgary
Eric Radford Figure Skating York
Tessa Virtue Figure Skating Windsor
Paul Poirier Figure Skating Toronto
Andrew Poje Figure Skating Waterloo
Kaitlyn Weaver Figure Skating Waterloo
Piper Gilles Figure Skating Ryerson
Brianne Jenner Hockey Calgary
Shannon Szabados Hockey MacEwan
Marc-Antoine Gagnon Freestyle Skiing UQAM
Mike Riddle Freestyle Skiing Alberta
Cam Stones* Bobsleigh McMaster*
Dave Greszczyszyn* Skeleton Brock*
Barrett Martineau Skeleton Mount Royal
Calynn Irwin Snowboarding Queens
Alex Harvey Cross Country Skiing Laval

*Competed in varsity men’s rugby (non U SPORTS-sanctioned sport)


Megan_McPhaden.png (74 KB)Megan is a Master of Journalism student at Carleton University. For the past seven years, she has covered university sports at the provincial, national and international level. In July 2015, she was selected as one of 12 student sports journalists from around the world for the FISU Young Reporters Program to cover the 28th Summer Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea. Megan's long term goal is to work as a foreign correspondent.

 

Twitter: @megom8
Website: http://meganmcphaden.weebly.com