It’s been a weird few years for athletes.
Well, I guess it’s been a weird few years for everyone. It’s not like dentists or ninjas or nuns are going around talking about how cool and normal the pandemic has been.
But athletes at all levels are accustomed to following detailed timelines and schedules, setting goals for themselves and then building up to them throughout their seasons. Maybe you win the big championship or maybe you don’t, but you always know that at least you’ll have a chance to compete for it. And if you fight all way to the end but come up short, you know there’s always next year.
Except, when there isn’t next year. As in, when a virus comes along that stops you from training, cancels your games, even shuts down entire seasons. The whole concept of competition loses its meaning when you aren’t able to compete. That’s what athletes have been faced with, to varying degree depending on the sport and the level, over the past few years. And of course, some sports have carried on almost without interruption, while others have missed multiple seasons. How do you make sense of such a mess?
That is the question arising with the return of the North Shore Sport Awards, an annual celebration – at least, it used to be annual – recognizing the most impressive achievements from local athletes. The awards haven’t been presented since 2019 because of all this bother, but they are back this year.
I’ve been a member of the selection committee for many years, and am excited that the awards coming back and curious to see how it will all shake down. Because, as we’ve established, it’s been a weird few years, making it trickier than ever to keep track of all those athletes out there doing great things. Amid the cancellations and social-distanced scrimmages, there have been some amazing performances from North Shore teams and athletes. Here are a few of them:
Connor Bedard: The last time the North Shore Sport Awards were held, North Vancouver’s Connor Bedard was a 13-year-old kid who was quietly awesome at hockey. Now he’s loudly awesome at hockey, routinely putting on performances that have him mentioned alongside players with names like Crosby, Lindros, Forsberg, McDavid and Gretzky.
Madison Mailey: The pride of Lions Bay, Mailey muscled her way to an Olympic gold medal as a member of Canada’s powerhouse women’s eights rowing team at the 2020 Games, conveniently held in 2021 in Tokyo.
Rowan Wick: The North Vancouver native has also done some pretty cool stuff since the last Sport Awards were held, picking up 20 saves as a part-time closer with the Chicago Cubs. Not bad for a guy who came up as a power-hitting catcher and had never thrown a pitch in a competitive game until the end of 2015 as a 22-year-old.
North Shore Twins: Sticking on the ball diamond, the senior Twins scored a BCPBL provincial championship title in 2022, always an impressive feat in the province’s premier baseball league.
Natasha Wodak: The North Vancouver resident made history in 2022, recording the fastest marathon time ever for a Canadian woman. She set the new mark at two hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds at the Berlin Marathon last September.
Cameron Alexander: The North Vancouver native stunned the skiing world in March of 2022 after finishing tied for first place in a World Cup downhill race in Kvitfjell, Norway. Alexander became the first Canadian to win World Cup downhill gold since Erik Guay in 2014.
Mollie Jepsen: Sticking to the slopes, West Vancouver’s Jepsen was Canada’s first gold medallist at the Beijing Paralympic Games, adding a silver medal later in the Games on her way to earning the honour of being the country’s flag bearer at the closing ceremony.
Those are a few of the great performances that have come out of the confusion of the past few years. But there are more. Lots more.
The Carson Graham seniors and Windsor juniors won provincial football titles, while the Handsworth girls won B.C. banners in field hockey and cross-country running in consecutive weeks.
Derek Mayson tied for the tournament lead with three home runs to help Canada earn silver at the 2022 WSBC Men's Softball World Cup. Speaking of World Cups, the North Shore sent four athletes – Hannah Haughn, Karli Johansen, Audrey Sawers and Grace Delmotte – to the 2022 Field Hockey World Cup.
North Shore rugby players Nick Allen and Elias Ergas made the debuts with Canada's men's sevens team, a feat that was tempered by the sobering news that Allen suffered severe injuries in a scooter accident in Bali in November.
Charlie Dannatt has been doing incredible things as a distance runner for the SFU cross-country and track teams, while eyebrows were raised all over Canada as the Vancouver Giants made hockey history when they picked 15-year-old Chloe Primerano of North Vancouver as their 13th-round choice in the 2022 Western Hockey League draft. She’s the only female player ever selected by any of the three major junior hockey leagues.
Here in North Van we had a brand new semi-pro sports team jump into action, with Altitude FC debuting men's and women's teams in League1 BC.
And I know there are many more great acheivements out there. That’s where you come in. Nominations are now open for the North Shore Sport Awards. This year’s awards will combine the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons into one award, so any bit of sporting excellence from the past three years could be award worthy. If you think you have a winner, you can access the online nomination form on the North Vancouver Recreation and Culture website.
We’ve had enough of sports getting shut down. It’s time to build them back up.
Andy Prest is the assistant editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly. email@example.com
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