Sport Shorts: Going Out on a High Note

Paralympic Star: A tremendous competitor and inspirational Paralympic athlete, Lauren Woolstencroft announced her retirement late last week. Her five gold medals in ski racing at Vancouver 2010 will forever go down in Canadian sports lore. Born missing her left arm beneath the elbow and both legs below the knees, Woolstencroft was determined to ski using two leg prostheses and a left arm prosthetic for balance.

She went on to capture more than 50 international medals, including eight world championship titles. She has won a total of eight Paralympic gold medals, 19 national titles, and a long list of Crystal Globes, which are won by the top athlete in each sport event during a World Cup season. In short, there is no major award that Woolstencroft has not captured, multiple times. Congratulations, Lauren.

Swimming: Canadian swimmers racked up a ton of hardware at the U.S. Grand Prix in Santa Clara, Calif. Alexa Komarnycky led the way with three medals, two of them gold. The Victoria native won both the 400- and 800-metre freestyle races, while adding silver in 400-metre individual medley (IM). Vancouver’s Brian Johns had an excellent event as well, winning two gold medals in 200- and 400-metre IM. Victoria’s Ryan Cochrane was also a double medallist, winning gold in 800-metre freestyle and bronze in 400-metre IM. Silver medals were won by Scott Dickens (Vancouver) in 200-metre breaststroke and Stefan Hirniak (Victoria) in 200-metre butterfly. And bronze medals were captured by Victoria’s Julia Wilkinson and Hilary Caldwell in 200-metre IM and 200-metre backstroke, respectively.

Judo: Two Quebec judokas took home bronze medals at a World Cup in Margarita Island, VEN. Marylise Lévesque, a 2008 Olympian, finished third in the 78 kg division. On the men’s side, Antoine Valois-Fortier won a bronze medal in the 81 kg division. Several Canadians finished in 5th spot at this World Cup: Kalem Kachur, Justin Imagawa, Bianca Ockedahl, Stéphanie Tremblay and Myriam Lamarche.

Slalom Kayak: It was a big day for Ottawa’s John Hastings, who reached his first career World Cup final in whitewater slalom kayak. On Sunday in Prague, Hastings finished 7th in the K-1 event after winning the semifinal outright. Canadian legend, five-time Olympian David Ford (Edmonton) finished 23rd.

Rowing: Victoria’s Malcolm Howard was the sole Canadian representative at a rowing World Cup in Munich over the weekend. Against a strong field, the 2008 Olympian finished sixth in singles. Howard is transitioning from his role in the Olympic gold medal men’s eight to rowing in the singles event. The next World Cup is July 9-11 in Lucerne, SUI.

Freestyle Skiing: Jenn Heil is the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association’s Athlete of the Year for 2009-10. She won Olympic silver on Cypress Mountain and won her fifth career World Cup title in moguls. It was yet another huge year for one of Canada’s greatest-ever freestyle skiers.