Home and away, it was a championship Sunday for Vancouver Island athletes.
Starlight Stadium in Langford was a gateway to Paris for Canada’s women’s sevens rugby team, beating Mexico 53-0 in the championship final in front of almost 4,000 fans.
Victoria’s Sophie de Goede played a key role for Canada at prop, and was boosted by the boisterous crowd. “Just getting to run out on that field like we’ve done a million times was a huge momentum shift and gave us a big advantage,” says the Oak Bay High grad near her home at Windsor Park.
The victory assures Canada a berth in the Olympic sevens tournament next summer in Paris. While Canada’s team is young, de Goede says they’ll be medal contenders. “I don’t see the podium or even gold as pie-in-the-sky stuff,” she says. “It’s about putting the right pieces together.”
A world away, another island athlete put it all together when it mattered most.
Nanaimo’s Ethan Katzberg won gold for Canada in the hammer throw at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, establishing a new Canadian record of 81.25 metres.
Katzberg was unaware his gold medal was the first World Championship medal ever won in the sport by a Canadian male. “Oh wow,” he told the CBC following the event. “I didn’t know that. That’s amazing.”
Despite the pressure of the tournament, de Goede says her team was aware of Katzberg’s feat. “To be the first Canadian male to win a medal, that’s nuts,” she says.
With respect, not quite as nuts as the finish in Chinon, France.
Victoria’s Riley Pickrell, riding in Stage 2 of the Tour de L’Avenir, nipped a Polish rider at the finish line after he had pulled up too early to celebrate.
The race is known as the “Tour de France for the U-23s” and a stage win is gratifying for the Victoria sprint specialist.
Call it proof that island athletes don’t give up easily. And they’re not about to apologize.
“It’s not really an apology sport,” says de Goede.