The records were falling one after another at the Welland International Flatwater Centre this week as some of Canada’s top paddlers took to the water for the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.
“I am happy to see the records fall, but I am not surprised,” said Ian Mortimer, chief technical officer for Canoe Kayak Canada, on Thursday, before the final day of racing. “The combination of near perfect conditions on this world-class course, plus our outstanding athletes being in strong form means those records will continue to be broken.
“In terms of on-water expectations for our athletes, I expected to see a strong level from our athletes, and they have not disappointed. In terms of pleasant surprises, the Yukon athletes have been impressive competing here at their second Canada Games in Canoe Kayak which has been great to see.”
In all, 14 Canada Games records fell this week in canoe kayak events (mainly in the first two days), three of them by Ottawa’s Maren Bradley, who won gold in both her kayak singles events in record time (K-1 500 metres and K-1 1000m) and with Sarah Nagy in the K-2 500m. Bradley added two silvers. Nagy, 20, from Aurora, Ont., won four kayak golds (K-1 200m, K-2 200m, K-2 500m, K-2 500 mix).
EIGHT PADDLERS RETURN FROM WORLDS
Eight paddlers at these Games have just returned from the 2022 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships held in Halifax just a couple weeks ago. They remained eligible despite national team status because their first worlds took place within 90 days of the Canada Summer Games.
Eight junior-aged athletes on a senior team may not be unprecedented (we were unable to confirm previous numbers), but it’s certainly unusual.
Four members of that national team are in Niagara competing for Nova Scotia: three for Ontario and one for Quebec.
Jacy Grant, Sloan MacKenzie, Julia Lilley Osende, and Andrew Billard are competing for Team Nova Scotia; Peter Bradley, Cameron Low, and Matthew O’Neill are here for Team Ontario; and Édouard Beaumier is competing for Team Quebec.
Beaumier, 22, from Trois Riviere, led the field in Welland, with six medals in total: five gold medals (C-1 200m, C-2 200m, C-2 500m, IC-4 200m and IC-4 500m) and one bronze (C-1 500m).
Grant, 19, from Wellington, NS, won four gold medals and a silver, capping off her competition with gold in the C-1 5000m on Friday afternoon.
Grant was the youngest female on the national team and finished fifth in the world in the C-1 1000m. Then she came to Welland, won the gold in her signature event, breaking the record by seven seconds. She also won gold in the C-2 200m with MacKenzie and helped set another record in the IC-4 500m with Ava Carew, Jessica MacKay and Lilley Osende.
“Coming into the Canada Games, I really just wanted to get a gold in all my races, especially just coming off of worlds,” said the Wellington, N.S. native who added that she is really enjoying the team aspect of the Games and meeting other athletes. “I thought, well, if I’m representing Canada I should at least be able to win it for Nova Scotia.”
The experience at worlds, which took place on Lake Banook where she had raced so many times, taught her a lot about how to prepare for the big races.
“I think I learned a lot about the importance of pre-race preparation. Whether it be like months before learning a race plan, going over graphs of previous races and doing specific practices or just the night before, eating enough, and fluids. Everyone was really helpful, helping me out with that, and that really makes a difference in racing.”
Peter Bradley, 18, from Ottawa, Ont., was the youngest member of Team Canada, finishing an impressive eighth in the world in the C-1 5000m. He felt he learned a lot by watching how the best in the world compete.
“I found the athletes who were going out with multiple races, when they went out, and if they weren’t happy with how a certain heat or any race went, they would immediately go to their coaches, immediately talk it through and be ready to go out for the next one,” he said. “They would take their mistakes and instead of letting them drag them down, building off of it and I think that was something I observed at the championships and something I’m definitely going to use in the future.”
Now he’s enjoying being part of Team Ontario, winning two silver and a bronze. He didn’t race in the C-1 5000m.
“I’ve enjoyed the crew boats the most,” he said. “Racing with all these guys from Ontario. I’ve known a lot of them since I started paddling. So being able to compete beside them in such a big event means a lot.”
Nova Scotia’s Lilley Osende and MacKenzie came to Welland newly minted world champions as part of the C-4 500 metre gold-medal crew that also included veterans Sophia Jensen and Katie Vincent.
MacKenzie, 20, from Halifax, won Canada Games gold in all three of her events: C-1 200m (CG record), C-2 200m with Grant, and the C-2 500m mix with Billard.
Lilley Osende, 21, from Dartmouth, continued her streak, winning gold in three events: C-1 500m (CG record), C-2 500m, and IC-4 500m (CG record); plus, a silver in the IC-4 200m.
Andrew Billard, 20, from Hammonds Plains, finished fifth at the worlds as part of the C-4 500m crew, along with Team Ontario’s Matthew O’Neill.
Billard followed that up with five medals in Welland, setting a record in the C-1 500m, adding golds in the C-1 1000m and C-2 500m mix (with MacKenzie), plus a silver and bronze for Nova Scotia.
Those performances helped catapult Nova Scotia to fifth overall in the Canada Summer Games medal standings. Its 34 medals at the flatwater centre included 18 gold.
Quebec won 35 flatwater medals, including 12 gold. Ontario won 34 medals with eight gold.
O’Neill, 20, from Ottawa, a member of the worlds fifth-place C-4 500m crew with Billard, finished his Games with a gold for Team Ontario in the C-1 5000m race on Friday afternoon. He also won three silvers and a bronze.
Low, 21, of Toronto, who competed in two events at the worlds, won a gold (K-2 500m mix with Sarah Nagy) and two bronze for Team Ontario.
“Canada Games provides an excellent goal for a range of athletes across the country,” said Mortimer. “This includes those from different regions as well as athletes developing through the U21 age category which we use for this competition. It is certainly a strong indication of Canoe Kayak’s development to see athletes from across Canada competing here. For the younger athletes, they are earning valuable experience on a world class course, against tough competition which will serve them well moving forward.”