Athletes of the Year
A centrepiece of Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the BLG Awards for the CIS Athletes of the Year were held in Vancouver for the first time this year. The prestigious two-day affair in May began with a luncheon for athletes, guests and media at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, followed by a basketball game between the eight awards finalists and founders of the awards. The following night, the finalists were honoured in front of more than 1,000 guests at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts. Veteran sport broadcasters Vic Rauter and Lisa Bowes hosted the 19th annual proceedings, which subsequently aired on the TSN network. The Canada West finalist for the Jim Thompson Trophy (CIS Female Athlete of the Year) was Thunderbird volleyball team captain Shanice Marcelle, the 2011 CIS Player of the Year who guided the Thunderbirds to a fourth consecutive national championship last spring.
Construction recently began on the Gerald McGavin UBC Rugby Centre, thanks to an $800,000 gift from the former UBC rugby standout and national team member. Located south of the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, the new facility will be home to both the men’s and women’s teams. It has shower and locker rooms for home and visiting teams, a new natural turf field, and a spectator seating area. Pending a potential partnership with the BC Rugby Union, the addition of training and sport medicine facilities may follow. Anyone interested in seeking further information about the new facility and future plans are encouraged to contact Steve Tuckwood, associate director of Development for UBC Athletics, at 604.822.1972 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former Thunderbird Rugby team member and UBC grad Tyler Hotson saw plenty of action playing for Canada at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. “I always look back on how I got to where I am, and the UBC rugby program had such an immense influence on me and helped me progress to where I am today,” said Tyler, following Canada’s win over Tonga in the World Cup opener in Auckland. Tyler’s UBC coach, Spence McTavish, also made the journey south to take in the action and meet officials from the universities of Wellington and Auckland. He hopes to create student exchange programs for UBC rugby players.
In 1994, at the funeral of renowned UBC rowing coach Frank Read, a group of UBC alumni discussed the idea of constructing a boathouse that would be a permanent home for UBC rowing crews. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of George Hungerford, Roy McIntosh, the late John Lecky and a number of other UBC alumni, the John M. S. Lecky UBC Boathouse was officially opened in September 2006. A lot of good things have taken place as a result of the facility since that time. In addition to forging valuable partnerships with Rowing Canada and St. George’s High School, a community rowing program was formed shortly after the facility opened and has since introduced the sport to many young athletes, one of whom entered UBC this fall. Nick Djordjevic has become the first UBC rower to have found his path through the community program and others are sure to follow. With a modern facility, an abundance of boats, and a pair of seasoned head coaches in Mike Pearce and Craig Pond, UBC has increasingly become a destination for aspiring university and national team rowers. The recent addition of alumnus and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Ben Rutledge, who will specialize in recruiting UBC students and coaching novice crews, will serve to widen the field of participants. Back in the late 1990s Rutledge was a first-year student who decided to try his hand at rowing, as did another freshman named Kyle Hamilton. Within a few years, both UBC rowers were named to Canada’s Eight and struck precious metal on numerous occasions in international competition, including their crowning performance in Beijing in 2008.
This month the Vanier Cup, Holy Grail of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) football, will be awarded to the 2011 national champions at BC Place Stadium, marking the first time the competition has been played in Vancouver. The cup made a surprise appearance at the football home opener at Thunderbird Stadium in September, where 29 members of the 1986 Thunderbirds football team – who helped clinch an unforgettable last-second Vanier Cup victory over Western Ontario nearly 25 years ago – were in attendance as honoured guests of UBC Athletics.
CFL Ironman Leo Groenewegen, a recent inductee into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame, and iconic former head coach Frank Smith were also watching the game, as was UBC president Stephen Toope. Their loyalty was rewarded when the T-Birds defeated the Alberta Golden Bears 40-30, registering their first home win since 2008. Coached by former quarterback Shawn Olson, UBC went on to defeat the Manitoba Bisons 29-23 the following weekend in the annual Homecoming Game, erasing any doubt that the program is well on its way back to the top of the national rankings.
As part of the Vanier Cup celebrations, UBC football alumnus extraordinaire Dan Smith and other active members of the recently formed Thunderbirds Football Association (TFA) have invited members of UBC’s past national championship football teams (1959, 1982, 1986 and 1997) to a reunion at the BC Sports Hall of Fame in the newly renovated BC Place stadium.
World University Games
The 26th World University Games wrapped up at the end of August in Shenzhen, China, with Canada’s men’s basketball team just missing its first gold medal finish in 28 years after losing 68-55 to Serbia in the championship final. Coached by UBC head coach Kevin Hanson and consisting entirely of CIS athletes, including UBC captain Nathan Yu, the Canadian team stunned the heavily favoured defending champions from Serbia in the second game of pool play by handing them their first loss in the last two World University Games. In what was clearly the highlight of the tournament, Hanson’s scrappy team advanced to the gold medal final with a convincing 83-68 win over Lithuania in front of a crowd of 10,000. “It’s been an unbelievable journey,” said Hanson in the aftermath of the final. “These players have been just tremendous. With only four days to work together before this tournament started, I don’t think a lot of people back home thought we would make it this far.”
Yu posted a 14-point performance in the final and made a solid contribution for Canada throughout the tournament. Although disappointed with the eventual outcome, he was clearly moved by the experience to play in front of enormous crowds in a city less than an hour from his father’s birthplace. “I’m proud to have been given this opportunity and I think our performance here speaks volumes about CIS basketball,” said the 23-year-old Arts student.
UBC swimmer Tera Van Beilen was another of the 17 current and former UBC Thunderbirds taking part in the games. Guided by newly appointed UBC head coach Steve Price, Tara captured silver medals in 50- and 100-metre breaststroke.
For complete UBC Thunderbirds news, scores and upcoming event information, visit www.gothunderbirds.ca