File photo: Gabriella Stafford. Courtesy of Martin Bazyl.

From July 3-14, athletes from the University of Toronto travelled to South Korea to compete for Team Canada in the 2015 Summer Universiade. U of T athletes, fresh off of successful seasons at both the provincial and national level, captured two medals and a fifth place finish against elite-level international competition.

The Summer Universiade is run by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and has been active since 1959. Referred to as the World University Games, the Universiade is the second largest multi-sport competition in the world next to the Olympics. The 28th biennial Summer Universiade Games were held in Gwangju, South Korea. Team Canada finished twenty-first with two gold, four silver, and two bronze medals.

Team Canada consisted of athletes from universities throughout North America, but several standouts came directly from U of T. Varsity Blues long distance runner, Gabriella Stafford, swimmer Kylie Masse, and decathalete James Turner all contributed to Canada’s success at the games. 

Masse’s performance in the women’s 100-meter backstroke earned a gold medal after a personal best time of 59.97. This follows an impressive freshman year for Masse, who earned the distinctions of U of T female rookie athlete, and Ontario University Athletics (OUA) female swimmer of the year after winning six gold medals at the OUA Championship.

Stafford captured a silver medal in the women’s 1500-meter competition, finishing the race with a time of 4:19.27 — a second faster than her bronze medal winning time in the 2014-2015 CIS Track and Field championship.

Stafford opted to preserve her energy for the final 300-meters of the competition because of windy weather conditions. “Once I saw an opening I got out of the box and with the wind at my back, I just starting picking off girls until I moved into second place!” she explained.

U of T track and field athlete James Turner, who was last season’s OUA and CIS gold medalist in the pentathlon, competed in the decathlon event, earning a fifth place finish with 7529 total points. Turner’s top five finish at the Universiade was confirmation that he can be highly competitive on the international stage.

Following the Universiade, the possibility of making Canada’s 2016 Summer Olympics team looms large for Turner. “There’s really only one team to make next year, and that’s the Olympics,” said Turner of his future athletic pursuits, adding, “I don’t like to think about the outcome, I try to focus on piecing together the best decathlon I’m capable of and letting the outcome take care of itself.”

It wasn’t only athletes that U of T contributed to Team Canada. Varsity Blues men’s basketball coach John Campbell headed to South Korea as assistant coach of Team Canada’s men’s basketball team. There, Campbell lead the team to a 4-1 start in preliminary group, and a 91-65 win against Estonia, cementing the team’s seventh place finish.

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