For the first time at the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg, the NWT had a genuine shot at a medal.
Too bad Gabriel Leclerc had an outside lane in the pool.
The 15-year-old swimmer was in the A final of the boys 50-metre breaststroke on Tuesday evening after having the eighth-best qualifying time from the heats earlier in the day. It wasn’t meant to be, though, as Leclerc ended up finishing eighth in a time of 32.04 seconds, still an impressive performance that makes him the eighth-best boys swimmer in Canada at that distance.
Leclerc said making an event final was something he wanted in Winnipeg and he simply went for it in the final.
“I wasn’t aiming for a medal but I really wanted it,” he said. “I went for it and just thought ‘Let’s see what happens’. I was just honoured to be in the race because I didn’t think it would come.”
Because Leclerc qualified eighth, that meant his choice of lane wasn’t too good, meaning he was on the far outside lane. That made the job even tougher because being in the outside lanes means you’re fighting waves that come from the middle of the pool.
Bad enough if it was a freestyle or backstroke race but in the breaststroke, it’s doubly tough.
“The waves are similar to a freestyle race but they’re continuous because of all the moving parts,” said Leclerc.
Leclerc wasn’t the only Yellowknife swimmer to make a final. Madison Penney swam in the B final of the girls 100-metre freestyle on Tuesday and finished eighth in that event in a time of 1:01.60, a 16 th place finish overall.
Volleyball teams still fighting
Both of the volleyball teams remained winless as of press time but the boys are getting close. They opened up against Manitoba on Monday and lost in straight sets, 3-0, and followed that up with another straight sets loss to Alberta.
Head coach Chad Hinchey said Manitoba was good but it wasn’t the best game his team has ever played together.
“We came out flat against them,” he said. “They’re a good team but I felt we were much better than that and it’s frustrating in a sense.”
The boys then took on Newfoundland and Labrador and showed flashes of what Hinchey thought they could be.
It still ended in a 3-0 loss and it was a case of opportunities lost, said Hinchey, as the boys were up 21-19 in set no. 2 and let it get away.
“We had that second set won,” he said. “We were right there in that game and we could have closed that set out and if we did, it’s a totally different game. We just didn’t make them pay for making mistakes. They’d make an error and we’d hand it right back. I know we can beat those types of teams but we didn’t put it together.”
Next up for the boys was New Brunswick yesterday and again, Hinchey said it was a winnable game.
“I go into each game wanting to win but it’s all about getting the guys to think that we need this one,” he said. “Ben (Shaver, assistant coach) and I want them to believe it so that way, it isn’t a shock when they get up in a set and they’re confident playing with a lead.”
When it comes to the girls volleyball team, the results have been the same as the boys – nothing to show for their games so far – but they’re having fun doing it and the fun has been obvious to everyone, even head coach Tyler Comeau.
Ontario was first up for the girls on Monday and that went exactly how you think it went. That was followed by a loss to Alberta later in the evening but things picked up for the girls against New Brunswick, even in a 3-0 defeat.
“We came out strong in the second set,” said Comeau. “We matched them point for point in that one but they got on a run and we just couldn’t keep up. Momentum is a big thing in volleyball and if you have it, you’ll roll.”
Wednesday saw the girls take on Newfoundland and Labrador and while they lost, 3-0, it was perhaps their best performance as they kept up with their opponents for most of the game.
While enthusiasm isn’t in short supply, the one thing that is short is size and that was made evident in their opening game.
“The height is always an issue,” said Comeau. “We average about 5′ 6” and the shortest player on Ontario was six feet tall. When you have a height disadvantage, it makes a tough job tougher but we put things into perspective. We’re setting goals in games such as making sure our serve-receive is improving, the pass-receive is good and if we get the chance, take a good swing at the ball. A big picture goal is what we want but every game has a different look to it.”
Tennis came and went rather quickly for Tamara Jovic as she lost her first-round match in girls singles on Tuesday in straight sets, 6-1, 6-0. Golf saw Deanne Whenham and Sebastian Toner in action on the girls and boys side respectively but both were well back of the lead as of press time.
Small steps forward for soccer
The boys soccer team played its opening two games on Monday and Tuesday and both ended up in similar 4-0 losses. A layperson would look at that and figure it was two losses, so what’s new?
But when you consider some of the recent results the NWT has had, this is probably the best the boys have played in quite some time when it comes to the 11-a-side version, according to head coach Huw Morris.
He said it’s never fun to lose but giving up eight goals in just two games is something that’s never happened before.
“When I tell the coaches down here that we don’t play 11-a-side, they’re amazed,” he said. “We don’t get the training time that the southern teams do and all of the indoor we play just isn’t conducive to the outdoor game, two totally different styles.”
Newfoundland and Labrador was up first for the boys on Monday and Morris employed a counter-attack system, meaning defence first and trying to catch the opposition off-guard the other way.
“We had a scouting report done after that game and we played it to a T,” said Morris. “It didn’t show on the scoreboard but we made things very difficult for Newfoundland. We didn’t have a lot of offensive threats but we defended very well.”
Game two against New Brunswick saw Morris switch things up because of the quickness of the opposition. It was a more attacking style with some players in different situations, such as Viktor Gutierrez playing up as a striker to let him roam around and create chances.
“He kept New Brunswick on their toes all game long,” said Morris. “We went more forward with our play and we created more offensive chances, plenty of good chances.”
See the next edition of Yellowknifer for the wrap-up of all the weekend action and the closing ceremony.