Blues play major part in Canadian success in Kazan

U of T athletes put in stellar performances at Summer Universiade

Blues play major part in Canadian success in Kazan

A dynamic contingent of Canadians competed at the 27th Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia, alongside athletes from 163 countries. Representing Canada were 308 athletes, with a number of them coming from the University of Toronto and Varsity Blues teams. Alongside the athletes were U of T staff functioning as members of the Summer 2013 Universiade mission staff for the Canadian delegation. These included chief therapist Dinah Hampson, communications officer Jill Clark, and medical extern David Lawrence.

In total there were 27 scheduled events at the tournament. To be eligible to compete in this summer’s Universiade, athletes had to be  full-time students at a post-secondary institution — university, college, or CEGEP — or have graduated from a post-secondary institution in the year preceding the Universiade. This year, Canada won a total of two gold, five silver, and nine bronze medals. .

The largest team competing was for track and field, with 51 team members including the Varsity Blues’ Sarah Wells, Alicia Brown, and Khamica Bingham. Swimming Canada’s roster consisted of 38 athletes, six of whom were Blues athletes: Heather Maitland, Paige Schultz, Zack Chetrat, Frank Despond, Edward Liu, and Chris Manning. The present and past success of the Blues women’s track and field team and the men’s swimming team highly impacted the choice of the recruitment staff of the Canadian team, resulting in the high number of athletes from U of T on the teams.

Chetrat placed seventh in the men’s 200-metre butterfly while Schultz  won two of Canada’s bronze medals in the 4×100-metre and 4×200-metre freestyle relay teams and finished seventh in the women’s 200-metre individual medley.

Blues women’s track stars Wells and Brown also performed very well in the competition, with Canada taking second place in the 4×400-metre relay team with a 3:32:93 finish; Russia placed first, and South Africa, third. Earlier in the competition, Wells — a former Olympian — placed fourth in the women’s 400-metre hurdles. Brown placed fifth in the 400-metre race and, with her time of 52.08 seconds,  earned a place at the International Association of Athletics Federations’ competition taking place later this summer.

Team Canada’s women’s rugby sevens team, including Blues’ player Karla Telidetzki , took an impressive 36–0 victory for the bronze medal against Great Britain. It was the first team sport medal that Canada won this year at the Universiade, just past the midway point of the tournament.

With the help of Varsity Blues players Mario Kovacevic and Dylan Bams, the men’s soccer team ranked seventh overall after a 3–1comeback against Malaysia.  Kovacevic, a strong leader on the Blues’ soccer team who is entering his final year at U of T, scored the third goal of the match. Earlier in the tournament, Kovacevic scored a crucial goal in a match against Peru, resulting in a  2–0 win for the Canadian men and allowing them to advance further in the tournament. However, Canada’s hopes of advancing in the tournament ended with a  1–0 loss to Ukraine.  Bams scored one of two goals in a draw against France in a draw in the team’s first game at the tournament.

Canada’s women’s basketball team finished eighth in the tournament, after an unfortunate 60–55 loss to Hungary with Blues women’s basketball head coach Michèle Belanger  as assistant coach. The Blues new men’s basketball coach John Campbell, who was previously with the Dalhousie team, also represented the Blues in Kazan as assistant coach of the men’s team.

Finally, Blues volleyball star Charlotte Sider placed 13th in beach volleyball with partner Rachel Cockrell. They split their six-game run 3–3, losing their final match to the Czech team 2–1, preventing them from advancing to the semi-finals.

Bingham dominates in debut track season

The next in our series of profiles of Varsity Blues headed to the FISU Summer Universiade

Bingham dominates in debut track season

After an impressive rookie season, Varsity Blues sprinter Khamica Bingham is preparing for the International University Sports Federation (FISU) Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia next month. Bingham, a media/technology major, was named Varsity Blues rookie of the year, and also won the Ken Giles award for Brampton’s amateur athlete of the year.

Rookie Khamica Bingham was part of the Blues' record-breaking women's relay team. PHOTO COURTESY VARSITY BLUES

Bingham describes her first season with the Blues as “one of my best indoor seasons that I have ever had.” The Blues rookie achieved individual success as well as success as a member of the 4×200-metre relay team. “I managed to run a personal best in the 60-metre with 7.41s, which is really close to my goal of running a 7.3. I was also the first leg for the 4×200-metre relay team, splitting a time of 23.9s. The team was able to break numerous records with a time of 1:36.53.”

Bingham attends UTM, lives in Brampton, and trains downtown, all of which make it difficult to manage school and training. But she has learned to balance  her commitments.  “The varsity experience is a new experience, but I am really enjoying it,” she says. “My coaches Bob and Carl look after me and make me feel [like] part of [the] varsity [environment]. They do a good job keeping me healthy and motivated.”

But the track was not where Bingham made her athletic debut: the Blues running star started gymnastics at the age of nine, and by age fourteen she was competing at the national level. “My dad motivated me [to compete] in sports and taught me stuff at home,” she says of her history as an athlete. A third-place finish in the all-around at the gymnastics national qualifiers allowed her to compete at the national competition.. Despite competing with an injury, she was able to finish in second place  on vault.

In grade six, Bingham won the 100-metre sprint against all of her classmates and was urged by her gym teachers to join the Herb Campbell track and field team. She later went on to win the 100-metre against all of the grade six and seven students who she competed against.

“My dad and I knew that I was pretty fast, but just chose to focus on gymnastics,” she said. After quitting gymnastics at the age of fourteen, she joined the Brampton Track Club in September 2010.   “I always secretly wanted to do track and field,” Bingham explains. “I [have] always been really powerful and knew that I had some speed from the training in gymnastics.”

Although Kazan will be her first international competition as a senior, she competed at the World Youth Championships in Lille, France, finishing fifth overall in the 100-metre race. She describes this as “a great stepping stone to help prepare me for the Canadian team that I made the following year for World Juniors Championships.”

Although she was competing with a knee injury at the World Juniors, Bingham finished fifth in the 100-metre with a personal best time of 11.46, missing third place by only one hundredth of a second.

Bingham is very proud of how the indoor season ended, and is excited about going to Kazan — mostly for the experience of running against the fastest girls from all over the world. “It will be in a new environment that I have never been in before,” she says.

Her goal for the Universiade is to make the 100-metre final, and if she does attain this goal, the focus will shift to winning a medal.  “I usually don’t have high expectations [of] myself, but the fact that I’m an ‘underdog’ going [into] the meet pushes me to run faster,” she says. Bingham will be joined in Russia by Blues teammates Alicia Brown and Sarah Wells.

Bingham’s goal for the upcoming Blues season is to improve her 60-metre time to 7.3s. She is also hoping that the 4×200-metre relay team can continue their strong record from this season.

Ultimately, Bingham is training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and hopes to also  make the national team that will head to the 2020 Olympics.   “Just to be at the Olympics would be amazing,” she said, “but I would … appreciate [the experience even more] if I were to make an Olympic final, or possibly medal at the Olympic Games.”

From the court to the beach: Charlotte Sider off to Russia for FISU Summer Universiade

The next in our series of profiles of Varsity Blues headed to the FISU Summer Universiade

From the court to the beach: Charlotte Sider off to Russia for FISU Summer Universiade

Charlotte Sider is a fourth-year kinesiology student and a volleyball aficionado. An integral member of the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball program that earned the OUA bronze medal last season, Sider lead the squad in kills with 170 kills per set, averaging to 2.88, and in serving aces with 30.

With her second consecutive OUA all-star nod, Sider has undoubtedly become a veteran force in Ontario volleyball. “It’s hard to judge success as a whole … and its difficult to get past the idea that success equals wining,” she says, reflecting on the season just past. “Although the ultimate goal wasn’t achieved for our team, I think that huge lessons were learned, and if understood and accepted, they will make us much stronger for the upcoming seasons.”

During the intercollegiate off-season, Sider competes in beach volleyball internationally. From July 6–17, she and her partner, Rachel Cockrell from Winnipeg will be one of three Canadian beach volleyball teams in Kazan, Russia, at the FISU Summer Universiade. The tournament is a multi-sport event that is second only to the Olympics in terms of number of countries and athletes participating, and will see Sider and Cockrell face against top teams from across the globe.

Having competed at numerous international events, Sider joined fellow Varsity Blues teammate Denise Wooding at the Under 23 Beach Volleyball World Championships in Poland this June. “The U23 Beach Volleyball World Championship was a small taste of what FISU games will entail,” said Sider. “A large factor in feeling more prepared for the games [is] playing in other international tournaments, and being exposed to the larger beach volleyball world.”

Sider explains that the key to success at this level of play is largely determined by mental toughness, something that must be trained dail.y. Qualities like these are essential on both the beach and the indoor court, and using beach volleyball as a cross-training technique in the off-season may be effective in improving not only mental skills like strategic play, but also agility, speed, and the “soft touch.”

“Beach training in general gives me way more touches on the volleyball then indoor, and for that alone it is a huge advantage for my indoor game,” Sider explains. These endeavors are just a glimpse of the work that the women’s volleyball team must put in during the off-season to be optimally prepared for another grueling Varsity campaign.

With the new Goldring Athletic Centre under construction set to be finished for the PanAm Games and women’s CIS National Volleyball Tournament in 2015, the Blues volleyball program is preparing its squad to compete at the Oscars of Canadian post-secondary volleyball tournaments. “With the Goldring Centre being finished, and being able to play with the girls I have been training with for years makes the experience that much more anticipated and exciting,” told Sider.

Going into next season, Sider explains that “one thing that I always need to keep in mind is that my volleyball career is a long process, and I still have a lot to learn, yet the point is to love the journey and embrace the good and bad times.”

After what will surely be an unforgettable athletic experience at the FISU games, Sider will join 11 returning players, along with five recruits, who will look to improve on the OUA bronze the Blues earned last season. “I’m very excited for next season,” she says. “Heading into my fourth year on the team, it feels like I’m nearing the end of my U of T career, but also beginning to play at a higher level more consistently.”

Check out the rest of our FISU coverage, featuring Varsity Blues athletes Zach Chetrat, Karla Telidetzki, and Mario Kovacevic.

Blues striker Kovacevic looking to end disappointing season on a high in Kazan

The next in our series of profiles of Varsity Blues headed to the FISU Summer Universiade

Blues striker Kovacevic looking to end disappointing season on a high in Kazan

After completing his third season with the Varsity Blues, striker Mario Kovacevic heads to Kazan, Russia next month to compete on team Canada’s men’s soccer team at the FISU Universiade.

Kovacevic played all 11 of the Blues’ games this season, scoring nine goals, and was named an OUA East second team all-star. In 2011, he ranked fifth in the OUA in goals scored with 11, and was named an OUA first team all-star. His impact on the Blues soccer team has increased significantly from his rookie year, when he played 13 games but scored only a single goal.

This past year, the Blues carried a winning record of 8-6-2, but Kovacevic noted that it was a disappointing season compared to previous seasons. “Last year was one of our worst seasons with the Blues in several years,” he noted. “We finished fourth in the league and didn’t make the OUA Final Four. We had a lot of fresh faces, and a very young team. I had a decent season, [but] not as good as my previous season as a Blue.”

Despite this disappointment, Kovacevic is looking forward to competing in the Summer Universiade. “I’m pumped to be a part of the team going,” he said. However, with a team composed of players from different universities, he acknowledges that there may be some struggles, when everyone has their own playing style. “It’ll be interesting to see how we gel and come together.”

Kovacevic hopes that the team can perform competitively throughout the tournament, and has set high individual goals. “Individually, I really want to be on the field for 90 minutes every game, as you can imagine,” he said. “As a team, I want us to get out of the group stage at least. I’ve been training six days a week trying to get in tip-top shape for this tournament, and really want to impress the coaching staff on the first day of camp.”

The road to this point in his soccer career has been a long one for Kovacevic, who first played at the age of four in Croatia. He began playing organized soccer when he was eight years old. “It’s been with me every step of the way since childhood,” he said.

However, Kovacevic paused his soccer career for a period of time in his teens. “I really got into volleyball in high school, and played in the OVA for a few years which took me away from soccer,” he explained. “But I got back into it seriously when my volleyball career ended with the end of grade 12.”

This is not Kovacevic’s first time playing on a quality soccer team, either. This past year, he played for the Toronto FC Academy team in the Canadian Soccer League. He also had the opportunity to play a few games on the Toronto FC Reserve team in the MLS Reserve League. Along with competing on these teams, he has trained with the Toronto FC first team.

Going into his fourth year as a Blue, Kovacevic hopes that the team can find a place at the top of the standings in the OUA. “I expect us to do much better this coming season. Our team has matured naturally, and we’ve gotten some new additions [in] the off season,” he said. “Seeing as this might be my last season as a Blue, I expect it to be my best.”

With his chance to compete in the FISU games and approaching his final season competing in the OUA, Kovacevic’s career is set to end on a high note. “I’m being realistic in knowing that unless some sort of miracle happens, my soccer career has reached its pinnacle with this tournament in Russia.”

Rugby player Karla Telidetzki ends her CIS run at Summer Universiade

The second of our series of profiles of FISU Universiade athletes

Rugby player Karla Telidetzki ends her CIS run at Summer Universiade

Karla Telidetzki has had a very successful season with the Varsity Blues women’s rugby team. Named a CIS all-Canadian and the OUA Russell division’s most valuable player, both for the second consecutive season, Telidetzki accounted for over half of Toronto’s offence, ranking seventh in the OUA with eight tries for 40 points in five games this season. To add to her list of accomplishments she will be representing Canada in women’s rugby sevens at the 2013 Summer Universiade.

The second year master’s student has been a student athlete her entire university career, beginning at the University of Alberta. “It was a bit of an adjustment to figure out a new schedule when I moved to my second degree, particularly when I had a fairly long commute to attend U of T practice,” she recounts.

Telidetzki believes that it is important and healthy to take breaks from schoolwork, and training has given her the perfect outlet to do this. Since making the move to graduate school, the Computational Aerodynamics student has not only made her way to graduating this year, but has also proven herself a formidable athlete, capable of representing Canada for the second time at the FISU championship.

Historically, Canada has enjoyed success in rugby at the FISU World University Championship, a biennial competition that started in 1963, with rugby sevens added in 2004 . After leading team Canada to a sixth-place finish at the 2012 FISU Games, Telidetzki is ready to tackle the competition this summer.

“Having competed in a previous FISU competition, I have an idea of what the tournament will be like in terms of competition and scheduling,” she said. “We obviously want to win, but beyond that we all want to develop as young rugby players, and in particular as rugby sevens players, as most of us play 15s the majority of the time.”

Beyond playing at last year’s Games, the Edmonton native is no stranger to international competition. In the past year alone, Telidetzki has played in competitive rugby sevens tournaments in Tobago and Las Vegas, where she competed against national teams. This invaluable experience has further developed her skills as a player, enabling her to move around in the back line, playing both full back and outside centre.

Telidetzki has also represented Canada on two other occasions, at the North American Caribbean Rugby Association sevens tournament in Barbados in 2011, and at last year’s FISU Rugby sevens competition in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France.

“Both have been an honour,” she said, and this year’s competition is no different. “The Universiade is about more than just rugby, and will bring athletes from all over the world to compete in many different sports. This is the first year for rugby sevens in this competition, and I am excited to take part in the inaugural competition.”

The women’s rugby sevens inaugural tournament is set for July 14 to 17 in Kazan. Canada has remained in good standing with the tournament, winning the first two in 2004 in Beijing, China, and 2006 in Rome, Italy. In 2008, they finished second in Cordoba, Spain, fourth in 2010 in Porto, Portugal, and sixth in 2012 in Brive, France.

In Kazan, Canada will compete in the preliminary round in Pool A against tournament host Russia, Japan on July 14, and France and Ukraine on July 15, . Reigning FISU champion Great Britain will compete in Pool B along with Italy, Belgium, Brazil, the United States, and China.

There is a five year limit on CIS eligibility for women’s rugby, which Telidetzki has just finished with the Blues. “My two years playing rugby for the University of Toronto have been amazing and I have been given phenomenal opportunities as a result of coming here. I will always be very grateful for that.”

Zack Chetrat one of six Blues swimmers representing Canada at Summer Universiade

The first of our series of profiles of FISU Universiade athletes

Zack Chetrat one of six Blues swimmers representing Canada at Summer Universiade

Varsity Blues male athlete of the year Zack Chetrat took last year off from school to focus on qualifying for the Olympics. The fifth year economics and political science major missed a spot on the Canadian team by two one-hundredths of a second, but his hard work has paid off, as he swam one of his best seasons ever.

He may not have made the Olympics, but Chetrat is currently preparing to represent Canada for the third time at the International University Sports Federation (FISU) Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia. Over 9,000 university athletes compete in the event in a variety of sports from July 6–17.

Chetrat’s accomplishments this season include claiming the OUA and CIS titles for the fourth time in the 200-metre fly, and receiving the Grand Slam Award from both Canadian interuniversity organizations. He also set a meet record in the 400-metre free at the OUA championship. Chetrat also won gold in the 200-metre fly at Swimming Canada’s World Championship Trials, which qualified him for the World Championships in Barcelona at the end of July.

Chetrat led the Blues men’s swimming team to both the OUA and CIS championships. The CIS title was particularly significant because it ended the Blues’ 19 year drought. “The varsity environment is a great environment to train in, and we are all working together. We have been working towards winning CIS for several years, and it is something special to share as a team,” Chetrat said.

Chetrat attributed this season’s major successes to a lot of hard work and a great support structure. He is in the water 10 times a week, and spends time in the gym, for a total average of 25 hours of training of week.

“The successes I have had this year in swimming, I have not been able to manage to do alone; I have had a lot of help along the way. The coaches are great — Byron MacDonald really helped a lot, and [so did] my personal coach Ben Titley,” said Chetrat.

“The MacIntosh Clinic has also played an important role in my recovery. In addition, my grandparents own a restaurant in Hart House, so I get to eat there and see my family often, which is a positive aspect.”

Being part of the Canadian team for the next summer Olympics in Rio in 2016  is a long-term goal for Chetrat, but right now he is trying to focus on achieving smaller goals. He is aiming to finish in one of the top eight places at the FISU Universiade this year, and looking forward to sharing the experience in Kazan with five of his teammates on the Varsity Blues, some of whom will be going to the FISU games for the first time. Joining him in Kazan will be Blues teammates Frank Despond, Edward Liu, Chris Manning, Heather Maitland, and Paige Schultz.