Swimmers Hanus, Hedlin headline UVic award winners

Swimmer Danielle Hanus, named top University of Victoria female athlete for the second consecutive year, expected to be training for a 2020 Tokyo Olympics that was supposed to happen in three months. So too swimmer Eric Hedlin, recipient of the President’s Cup for the UVic athlete best combining academic and athletic achievement.

UVic male athlete of the year Isaac Koch, meanwhile, was in his first pro soccer training camp with Pacific FC when the COVID-19 pandemic halted all sports activity and postponed the start of the Canadian Premier League season.

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That is the tableau of awards season amid a pandemic. UVic’s award winners for 2019-20 were scheduled to be honoured last week at the annual sports awards gala at the Victoria Conference Centre. But the pandemic forced cancellation of the ceremony. UVic announced its award winners Monday.

For potential Olympians like Hanus and Hedlin, the Tokyo Games will instead happen in 16 months.

“It will be for the ages,” said Hanus, of what are already being billed as the recovery Games.

She said the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation began to hit home with the closing of Commonwealth Place pool and the cancellation of the Canadian Olympic swimming trials in Toronto.

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics became inevitable but she said it was still devastating to hear the news. At 22, however, time is on the side of the fourth-year psychology major.

“I’m still OK. This gives me more time to train for Tokyo,” said Hanus, by phone.

“This situation is something I will remember the rest of my life.”

Hanus followed up her four silver medals internationally at the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games with four gold medals in February at the U Sports national championships at her home Saanich Commonwealth Place.

Hanus shared the UVic female athlete of the year award with Canada-capped field hockey defender Anna Mollenhauer from the two-time defending U Sports national champion Vikes, projected as a key performer for the Canadian Olympic team on the road to Paris 2024 qualifying. The other nominee was rugby player Paige Farries.

Hedlin was the 5K open-water bronze medallist at the 2019 FINA world aquatics championships in South Korea and is the winner of seven career U Sports medals in the pool. He echoed many of Hanus’ thoughts.

“It’s a challenging situation but I look on it as a bonus — there is more time to prepare,” said Hedlin, also by phone.

That is especially true for Hedlin, who must transition to the Olympic 10K distance from his 5K speciality.

“The more experience you have, the better in open water, which tends to be an older sport,” said Hedlin, who turns 27 this month.

The other nominees for the President’s Cup were striker Kiara Kilbey, a potent offensive threat throughout her five-season Vikes soccer career, and second-row rugby standout Zoe Goodwin-Sutton.

Meanwhile, the darting and elusive midfielder Koch led Canada West with eight assists and had a conference second-leading nine goals to earn the pro camp invite with PFC.

“The guys are all faster and strong up in the pros,” said Koch, of the PFC camp experience, before it was cut short by the pandemic.

The other nominees for top UVic male athlete were Canada U-20 second-row rugby player Gavin Kratz and U Sports track gold-medallist Vaughn Taylor.

Diego Maffia from basketball was named UVic male rookie athlete of the year. A true, pure outside gunner, he was not shy to shoot even as a freshman and averaged 35.2 percent from three-point land and was second in team scoring with 12.5 points per game. Also nominated were projected future Olympian Will Simpson, named 2019 top junior rower in the country and who represented Canada at the world junior championships, and emerging track athlete Sajjan Sarai.

The UVic female rookie of the year is rower Aida Lissel-DeCorby, fourth with the Canadian quad at the world juniors. She beat out U Sports swimming double-medallist Lauren Crisp and freshman starting centre-midfielder Nikki Virk of soccer.

James O’Neill from rugby and McKenna Simpson from rowing were named co-winners of the Chancellors Award, which goes to the Vikes athlete who contributed the most to his or her team both on and off the sporting venue. The other nominee was veteran Vikes soccer goalkeeper Puck Louwes.

The Provost’s Award for the Vikes varsity athletes with the highest grade-point average was shared by Hannah Walline from basketball and Natalie Cavallin of soccer.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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