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Maffia, Pemble, Brier rink named top 2023 Victoria athletes and team

The event is a revival of the Greater Victoria Sports Awards, which ran from 1968 to 2005
Vikes guard Diego Maffia drives to the hoop during Canada West basketball action at CARSA gym in Victoria. Maffia has been named Victoria male athlete of the year. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Mel Pemble, on her her way to becoming a rare Summer and Winter Paralympian this year in Paris, was named Victoria female athlete of the year for her gold- and silver-medal cycling performances in the 2023 Para Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

Pemble, who was born with cerebral palsy and immigrated with her family to Victoria from Lancashire, England, in 2009, also skied on Mount Washington while growing up and made it to ski in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics. The all-rounder began cycling on the velodrome in Colwood and is on target to race on the velodrome track for Canada in the 2024 Paris Summer Paralympics.

The electrifying shooting-guard Diego Maffia, who lit up CARSA Gym and who followed up his 2023 Canada West MVP award by being named conference MVP again for this season, was named Victoria male athlete of the year.

The 2023 team of the year is the Victoria Curling Club Jacques Gauthier rink, which became the first Island rink to win the B.C. championship and play in the Brier since 2007. Much like Maffia, the VCC rink of third Sterling Middleton, second Jason Ginter and lead Alex Horvath was back just as strong this year and re-captured the B.C. title, this time with Catlin Schneider as skip, and open this week in the 2024 Brier in Regina.

The awards, decided upon by a selection committee struck by the Greater Victoria Sport Tourism Commission and sponsored by the Victoria Foundation, are for achievement in 2023.

Dual rugby and basketball player Adia Pye was named female high school athlete of the year and lacrosse player Blake Swan the male high school top athlete. Maffia and weightlifter Kathryn Lee were selected male and female top athlete attending university or college. Tennis player Robert Bettauer and runner Catrin Jones were named masters athletes of the year and national-team rugby player Shalaya Valenzuela and soccer player Maddox Moon the Alex Nelson Award winners as top female and male Indigenous athletes, respectively.

Krista Thompson, the long-term assistant coach to legend Lynne Beecroft, stepped up to the head coaching position last season and led the University of Victoria Vikes women’s field-hockey team to the national title in her first year as bench boss and was named coach of the year.

Keith Butler, the longtime track and field official and organizer, is the recipient of the Pat Hall Volunteer Award, while the Victoria Reign Capital Region Female Minor Hockey Association won the John and Marilyn Bate Award as the organization of the year.

The winners will be honoured at the awards ceremony Thursday evening at Government House. Tickets are $75 and available until Wednesday at Last year’s winner of the female award was 2022 Winter Olympics gold-medallist hockey player Micah Zandee-Hart and the male award winner 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games and pro cyclist Riley Pickrell.

The event is a revival of the Greater Victoria Sports Awards which ran from 1968 to 2005. The original awards were discontinued due to cost and logistics following the 2005 ceremony in which NBA MVP Steve Nash was named Victoria male athlete of the year and 2004 Athens Paralympics multi-medallist swimmer Stephanie Dixon top female athlete.

The awards were revived last year by the Greater Victoria Sport Tourism Commission and will be held annually.