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For the second time this year, netball – a sport played by more than 20 million people in 70 countries—will be on display at Fortius Sport & Health in Burnaby. In the first international netball games to be contested in the Lower Mainland since 2001, Team Canada will play against Team Cayman Islands in a three-game series October 25 – 27.
“It’s a great opportunity to show the game being played at the top level,” said Ann Willcocks, president of the BC Netball Association. “As we’re a developing sport in Canada, to see the skills performed at the elite level is exciting for us. It’s also rewarding to see that Canada can compete internationally.”
This series marks the first visit to B.C. for the Cayman Islands team. Spectators in Burnaby can expect some exciting play, according to team representative Lyneth Monteith. She said spectators will see “a competitive team who are excellent ambassadors for their country.” Netball is the premier women’s sport in the Cayman Islands and is played in all schools. Monteith hopes the series in Burnaby will promote a sport which she describes as giving players “life skills which are transferable to one’s career of choice and family life.”
For Canadian team member Sandra Tom of Burnaby, in her seven years on the national team, she has only played one international game in Canada. “It means a lot to be able to play an international event here in Burnaby,” said Tom. “Some of our family and friends always hear us talking about netball, but they don’t really know what it is as they’ve never seen a game. So, it’ll be great for them to see some netball played at a high level.” She hopes this type of exposure will attract more local players to the sport.
Earlier this year, Fortius Sport & Health hosted the 2018 Canadian Netball Championships. Willcocks is thrilled to return to the venue. “Fortius is the perfect facility for us. The gym floor is exceptional quality and the temperature can be controlled which is important for us. Having the accommodation in the same location is excellent.”
Netball, the most widely-played sport by women around the world, is a fast-paced passing game, using a hoop with no backboard. Players rely heavily on speed, agility, and teamwork. Two teams of seven players contest for possession of the ball, pass it and attempt to shoot for goal through 3.05-metre-high rings.
It was an exciting finish to the two-day Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic at Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium June 27 as Canada’s top male sprinters set a new meet record in the 4×100-metre relay before a crowd of 3,650 fans. Anchored by Olympic medallist Andre De Grasse, Team Canada won the relay in a time of 38.42 seconds, beating a 25-year-old meet record.
“I always love coming here. Everyone is so gracious and kind and I just have fun being here,” said De Grasse as he met with fans and signed autographs following the race. “The crowd was amazing. This is one of the greatest historical meets in Canada. Getting a chance to run here is an honour. I am happy and fortunate and blessed to get a chance to run here.”
2018 marked the 35th anniversary of the meet. It’s an opportunity for local athletes to compete in an international meet with friends and family in the stands. “There’s quite a bit of talent in B.C.,” said Coquitlam’s Jerome Blake, after his 200-metre race where he placed second with a personal best time of 20.74. “It definitely feels good being able to compete out here in front of a home crowd.”
Langley’s Georgia Ellenwood competed in high jump in the Harry Jerome Track Classic at Swangard back when she was a grade 12 student. “I still remember it like it was yesterday,” she recalled. “It gave me confidence heading off to college.” Now 22, she’s making her mark with a recent win in the heptathlon event at the 2018 National Collegiate National Collegiate Athletic Association Division Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon. She said the crowd as Swangard inspired her. “The atmosphere here is amazing. You just feed off the people.” She added this event provides more exposure to her sport. “In the U.S., track is promoted. And so it’s so nice to see that’s happening here now. With all of these people in the stands, they have the same passion for the sport that I do. That drives you and gives you motivation.”
The meet also featured the Team Sprint Challenge with the fastest sprinters from China and Canada competing in 10 events. Team China Manager Ling Jin said this was the first visit to Canada for the Chinese athletes. “It’s beautiful here. Beautiful town and weather and a new track. It’s perfect,” she said.
Full results of the 2018 Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic are available here.
Over the Victoria Day long weekend, Burnaby once again hosted the Canadian Netball Championships at Fortius Sport & Health. It was an opportunity to showcase a sport that’s well-known in countries across the Commonwealth, but not top-of-mind in Canada. “I think we’re doing really well right now,” said Ann Willcocks, president of the BC Netball
Alberta defender attempting to block Team BC shooter Sarah Binns
Association. “We are really happy with the number of kids we have playing and we really feel that the only way we can grow is to get Canadian kids playing because netball is the largest sport for women in Commonwealth countries. But in Canada, it’s relatively new, because basketball is so big.” She added that getting the sport into the schools is the key to gaining more exposure.
Netball combines concepts from basketball and handball and is the most widely-played sport by women around the world with more than 20 million participants in more than 70 countries. The sport is a fast-paced passing game, using a hoop with no backboard. Players rely heavily on speed, agility, and teamwork. Two teams of seven players contest for possession of the ball, pass it and attempt to shoot for goal through 3.05-metre-high rings.
Team BC’s Megan Widmer got involved in high school in Burnaby when a friend told her about netball. “We were both playing basketball and she said it’s a sport where you don’t have to dribble. And neither one of us were good at dribbling in basketball, so I said, let’s try it out.” Since then, she’s been on the national team and has played around the world. But she appreciates the opportunity to play in Burnaby. “It’s so great to be home and having all the supporters here. Just to be home and have people come out and learn about the sport and to use this beautiful facility – it’s great to be here.”
Alberta defender contesting the ball with BC winger Danette Mui
Team Alberta vice-captain Ren Gargan said people are starting to learn more about the sport in her province. “I grew up in Australia and it’s a sport that girls play,” she said. “It’s a great social sport.” She added there are new opportunities in Alberta that invite men to play in mixed leagues.
Across the country in Quebec, the sport is also gaining more attention. Team Quebec head coach Marina Leigertwood said netball is mostly known by immigrants from other Commonwealth countries, but with summer camps for high school students and introducing it to teachers, more people are discovering netball. “We are trying our best to get exposure to the sport. We practice in schools. When people see it for the first time, they see that it’s very fast. It’s a true team sport.” She praised Fortius Sport & Health as a great venue for her sport. “We love this facility. We were here four years ago. It’s really nice because the gym is downstairs and we’re staying upstairs. It’s a central location for us.”
Team BC won both divisions: U23 and Open.
Netball is scheduled to return to Burnaby this fall with a series of three ranking games between teams from Canada and the Cayman Islands. It will be the first international netball event in the Lower Mainland.
Photos by: Darren Huang for the BC Netball Association
Burnaby Sport Park was filled with more than 1,200 young soccer players during the Easter long weekend competing in the first SX Easter Invitational, presented by Sport Burnaby.
Approximately 80 boys and girls teams from the Lower Mainland, other parts of B.C. and Alberta took part in the tournament. They competed in various categories including U10, U12, U13 and U14 (development and premier teams) over three days.
“With top facilities and local expertise, Burnaby Sport Park is a great place to host this type of tournament,” said Chris Murphy, managing director of E11even Management Inc. “Burnaby knows what we need to stage a event of this magnitude and we were happy with the outcome – providing a well-organized, professionally-managed amateur sport experience for the participants.”
He added tournament organizers, with the support of Sport Burnaby and the City of Burnaby, were able to deliver what he called a “boutique event” for everyone involved. “Having great contacts in Burnaby who understand our goals for this type of tournament really helps,” said Murphy.
This was the first soccer tournament of its kind in Burnaby for this age group at this time of the year – a big event with so many teams all at one venue. And based on its success, organizers are looking at ways to incorporate this tournament into the spring competition calendar next year.
All games were played at Burnaby Sport Park (Field Complex West). More details about the SX Easter Invitational are available here.
In just three years, Vancouver Goalball Grand Slam has become an important tournament on the goalball completion calendar. The third edition of the tournament took place March 9-11, 2018 at Fortius Sport & Health in Burnaby. The first Grand Slam was also held in the same venue in 2016.
Organized by the Vancouver Goalball Club and presented by YVR, the tournament attracted nine top teams from B.C., Alberta, the United States, Puerto Rico and Japan. With $8,000 on the line, it’s the only international goalball tournament offering prize money to the winning teams.
For local spectators who haven’t experienced goalball, they had the chance to learn more about this Paralympic sport. “I think most people would be surprised, it’s a tough sport,” said Ahmad Zeividavi, president of and player for the Vancouver Goalball Club. “When they see it, they feel impressed by how intense it is.”
Zeividavi’s teammate and national team member Doug Ripley is from New Westminster was thrilled to compete at home. “It’s so nice playing here in front of family and friends. It’s really special.” He added this tournament is providing more exposure to the sport. “This is our third year of having this in the Lower Mainland. It’s growing the sport and building greater awareness of the sport. I love Burnaby. It’s very convenient.”
Goalball is played by athletes who are blind or visually impaired. The athletes compete in teams of three with the aim of scoring their ball into the opponent’s net. Teams alternate throwing the ball from one end of the court to the other, using their bodies to block the net. The ball has bells inside of it, so players can track the sound of the ball to strategize their position and movement. All athletes also wear eyeshades to allow partially sighted players to compete on an equal playing field with blind players. Goalball is the only Paralympic sport that isn’t adapted from able-bodied sport.
“It’s a good competition level, something we don’t really see in Canada normally,” said Aaron Prevost of Team Young Guns from Calgary and Edmonton as he described the tournament. “It makes us want to play better. The Americans are really good players.”
U.S. National Team Coach Matt Boyle had high praise for tournament organizers and Fortius Sport & Health, a facility which has the competition venue, accommodation and athlete services all under one roof. “During a goalball tournament, the key obstacle for blind or visually impaired athletes is transportation,” said Boyle. “When you’re able to stay in the facility you’re playing, it literally doesn’t get better than that.”
He believes this tournament has great growth potential. “This tournament is the future. This tournament will be premier tournament for club teams in the world. It’s already almost there.”