Eight Vancouver Island athletes win medals at Canada Winter Games

The Canada Games have been the launching pad for so many, from Sidney Crosby and Hayley Wickenheiser to Comox’s Cassie Sharpe on the winter side and Victorians Steve Nash to Ryan Cochrane on the summer side.

The 2019 Canada Winter Games conclude Sunday with the closing ceremony in Red Deer, Alta.

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There were 35 athletes, coaches and officials from the Island and Gulf Islands on the B.C. team to the 2019 Games.

The Canada Games, as with the Olympics, alternate every two years between summer and winter editions. A total of 45 Island athletes won 65 medals at the last Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg in 2017. The haul wasn’t as massive at the Winter Games, as eight Islanders came away with medals in Red Deer.

That included hockey players Megan Bouveur of Victoria, blueliner Devyn Millwater of Brentwood Bay and goaltender Kiara Stecko of Shawnigan Lake School, who captured the women’s bronze medal with Team B.C. in a 5-4 victory Saturday over Ontario. The Island trio missed playing for gold after B.C. outplayed Alberta, but recorded a 2-1 semifinal overtime loss to a team it had beaten 6-1 in round-robin play.

“We did everything right, but we ran into an acrobatic [Alberta] goalie who stopped everything,” said B.C. head coach Delaney Collins, in a statement.

Bouveur scored twice in the 7-1 B.C. quarter-final victory over New Brunswick after going 3-0 in the preliminary round.

Victoria Royals forward-prospect Matthew Hodson lost out on a medal in men’s hockey with a Saskatchewan team that was routed 12-0 by Alberta in the bronze-medal game.

Because there aren’t enough winter sports, some summer sports are added to fill out the agenda of the Canada Winter Games. That’s why you have the quirk of Summer Olympic medallists Nicolas Gill, a judoka, and boxer Lennox Lewis listed as Canada Winter Games alumni.

Add Antonio Li of Victoria to that list after he captured men’s badminton gold at the Red Deer Games. Li began his career by tagging along with his dad to the modest badminton building in Cordova Bay. It has led to big dreams. At 22, Li was among the older athletes in Red Deer, and the Canada senior No. 2 harbours realistic ambitions for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.

“My dad introduced me to the sport for recreational fun, but it turned out being my passion, and have been in love since,” Li said in a statement.

Winning judo silver medals in the Red Deer Games were Dakota Webb of Victoria, Anthony Henry of Campbell River and Isabella Greene and Korin Gardner of Nanaimo. Gardner added a bronze medal as well.

Synchronized swimmers Kaitlyn Aylesworth and Mara Lambert-Wilson of Victoria and Hannah Proud of Nanaimo just missed the podium in finishing fourth with the B.C. team.

Boxer Jerome Leroyer of Nanaimo and wheelchair basketball player Ryleigh Bissenden of Victoria also competed. But the theme of the Red Deer Winter Games is, well, winter sports, and there was plenty of Island action on snow and ice. That included Port Alberni figure skater Kari Trott and curlers Chanelle Meeres and Gracelyn Richards of Courtenay and Keelie Duncan of Comox.

The generation that grew up skiing and boarding on Mount Washington and that exploded onto the international scene with four athletes at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, including gold medallist Cassie Sharpe, was followed up by the next generation in Red Deer that included cross-country skiers Tallon Noble of Courtenay and Jessye Brockway of Mill Bay.

A total of 3,600 athletes, coaches, managers and support staff gathered in Red Deer from 10 provinces and three territories. British Columbia’s delegation included 251 athletes, 46 coaches, 29 managers and technical staff, along with 23 mission staff.

Fourth-place B.C. had 87 medals heading into Sunday’s final day, behind Quebec’s 146, Ontario’s 105 and Alberta’s 100. Manitoba rounded out the top-five with 25.

Double gold-medallist badminton player Wendy Zhang of Richmond will carry the B.C. flag into Sunday’s closing ceremony.

Hockey player Micah Hart of Saanichton, now on the Canadian national women’s team and looking to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, carried the B.C. flag into the opening ceremony of the 2015 Prince George Canada Winter Games. That honour two weeks ago in Red Deer went to another hockey player, Fin Williams of North Vancouver, who is a prospect for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League.

The WHL was well represented among western provinces in Red Deer. The Victoria Royals had six prospects competing in the Winter Games’ men’s hockey, including Island products Nolan Bentham of Victoria and Cage Newans of Parksville for the seventh-place B.C. team that also included Royals-prospect goaltender Keegan Maddocks and Everett Silvertips’ blueline-prospect Ty Gibson of the South Island Royals midget team.

Hodson was with fourth-place Saskatchewan, while the Manitoba team included Royals prospect-forwards Trentyn Crane and Roux Bazin.

GAMES NOTES: The next Canada Summer Games are in 2021 at Niagara Falls, Ont., and the following Winter Games in 2023 on Prince Edward Island.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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