U of T’s Varsity Blues sent 13 athletes and four coaches to represent Team Canada at the Summer Universiade, a biennial international university sports competition, with two U of T athletes bringing home a medal.
This year’s event was held between July 3 and July 14 in Naples, Italy, where athletes competed in various sports including fencing, swimming, water polo, volleyball, and others. U of T also had two non-Varsity athletes in the games, with Elaena Dick competing in diving and Justina Yeung competing in table tennis.
Michèle Bélanger, who is going into her 40th season as the Varsity Blues women’s basketball head coach, was Team Canada’s head coach during the games. She spoke to The Varsity before heading off to Italy and expressed her excitement for the games: “I think we have some really great athletes on the team that will provide us with speed and agility and I think we can really perform well on the international court,” she said.
Bélanger was the head coach of Team Canada once before in 1997, and served as an assistant in 2013 and 2015. “We did really well, I was really pleased. I’m looking forward to the same kind of experience in the summer,” she continued.
Canada earned a total of one gold, one silver, and four bronze medals, with U of T swimmers Hannah Genich and Ainsley McMurray helping Canada secure the bronze medal in 4×100 metre medley relay.
Genich swam the butterfly leg, while McMurray swam freestyle. Rachael Jaffe held down the net for Canada’s water polo team, leading them to first in their group, a victory over the Americans in the quarterfinals, and a fourth-place overall finish. Track and field runner Lucia Stafford finished fifth in the women’s 1500 metre run, and just 20 minutes later, helped Canada’s 4×400 metre team finish fifth in their race.
Bélanger’s women’s basketball team lost all three games in the group stage and lost by one point to Slovakia in the quarterfinals for the bottom half in the tournament. However, they had a strong finish for their campaign with back-to-back wins against Argentina and Mexico, ending at the 13th place in the tournament.