February 8 marked the closing of the Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Known as the Olympics of college and university sport, it is a biennial multi-sport event open to athletes from 17 to 28 years of age.

Every year, over 12,000 student athletes and 500 coaches from 56 universities vie for 21 national championships in 12 different sports. They signal a country’s athlete pool and future competitiveness.

Canada won three medals: a gold in women’s curling, a silver in women’s hockey, and a bronze in men’s hockey.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the way our entire delegation represented Canada in Almaty,” said Canada’s Chef de Mission, Ari Grossman, in a U Sports interview. “Our student athletes, coaches and support staff return home with memories that will last them a lifetime. On behalf of Team Canada, I wish to extend our sincere appreciation to FISU and the Almaty organizing committee for this memorable Universiade.”

The women’s curling team, led by skip Kelsey Rocque and her University of Alberta team, walked away with the gold after a terrific performance.

“I think we kept our last couple of games best for last, not just the gold-medal game,” said Rocque. “We played really well the last five or six games. We’re really proud of our performance.”

In the past, Canada has had strong finishes in curling, but this was the first gold medal in curling since Brittany Gregor’s team captured the women’s gold in 2007 at Turin, Italy.

“It’s kind of a surreal feeling,” said second Taylor McDonald; “We knew what we were doing out there. I’m very confident in my three teammates and our coach. I’m so happy to have this gold.”

The Canadian women’s hockey team settled for silver against Russia for the second straight Universiade. Special teams made the difference in the game. Canada went 0-for-14 on the power play — including almost 8 minutes of 5-on-3 — while Russia capitalized on 2 of their 6 power play opportunities.

“We just couldn’t bury the puck today. We had lots of opportunities to get it deep and put it in the net but we just couldn’t do that today. A lot of missed opportunities for sure,” said assistant captain Kelty Apperson. “They played a strong defensive system. They were very aggressive on the PK.”

Many players use Universiade-like competitions to better their game. According to Gracenote Sports, a data analytics firm that makes predictions on future Olympics results, Norway is set to top the next winter Olympics; the country placed twenty-fifth in Almaty.

Russia dominated Almaty with 71 podium finishes (29-27-15), including 29 of the 85 gold medals. While it may not change the predictions for the next winter Olympics, competitions like Universiade draw attention to a country’s commitment to growing and sustaining their athlete pool.

With files from U Sports Communications.


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