South West wraps up Games with team golds

Matthew Gourlie
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The South West team at the Sask Winter Games earned a number of medals from traditional strengths — judo, speed skating and wrestling.

However, South West Chef de Mission Scott Osmachenko is hoping that the region laid some groundwork in some new sports at this year's Games in Prince Albert.

"It was a great week. It was nice to see that for the first time ever Team South West had a snowboard team in the Winter Games. We were pretty excited about that," said Osmachenko. "We had a synchronized swimming team and that went over fairly well. It was good to see participation in air pistol, biathlon and cross country skiing — sports that are maybe not as predominant sports in the South West.

"Four years ago the host committee bought some biathlon riffles and those riffles stayed in Moose Jaw and we were able to have a team of five who were able to continue to practice and do biathlon. It was nice to see that legacy from four years ago."

The South West collected 13 gold medals, 13 silver medals and 18 bronze medals. Their 44 total medals placed them fifth in the medal standings. The flag point standings hadn't been made official as of Monday, but Osmachenko believed they were likely to match the fourth-place showing they had in 2010 when Moose Jaw hosted the games.

"We're pretty happy with the speed skaters, the judo competitors, the hockey team and the curlers who did really well this week," said Osmachenko. "Overall we were pretty happy. P.A. did a really good job with the venues and the food and athlete services."

The winter weather caused some havoc during the change-over. The bus carrying the athletes from the Games back to Moose Jaw was stranded in Davidson because highway 2 was closed. The athletes, coaches and some of the parents spent the night in a church in Davidson before the group of 75 was fed by volunteers in Davidson and they were able to hit the highway in the morning.

"Wednesday was definitely a long day. That was the most stress we had during the week. That kept us awake and making sure they were safe and sound in Davidson," said Osmachenko. "The Swift Current bus and the Regina bus both made it home. The driver had just come from that road and he thought he could make it back. Unfortunately the weather changed and they weren't going anywhere once they got to Davidson."

South West got off to a fast start at the Games when they won 10 medals in judo, picking up three gold, two silver and five bronze. In the second half of the Games, Gabrielle Sanson and Olivia Moyse each won two gold and two silver medals in speed skating and combined for a team gold medal as the local speed skaters won a total of 13 medals.

The South West also won six medals in wrestling.

The district finished the Games off on a high note as they won team gold medals in male curling and female hockey.

The South West female hockey team went unbeaten through the tournament and capped their run with an 8-3 win over South East in the final.

South West beat Regina 2-1 in their opening game which filled the team with confidence.

"The first game was our big feat. They had some chances, but our goalie kept us in the game," said Moose Jaw's Jocelyn MacLeod, who coached the South West girls. "Once we got over Regina, I'm pretty sure everyone was pretty comfortable against the other two teams in our pool."

The South West girls team featured Josée Aiken from Eyebrow, Alex Gray from Brownlee, plus Lybbi Robart and Mikayla Swallow from Moose Jaw who all play on the Female Bantam Warriors.

"They weren't moving their legs. We had a quick chat in the intermission and then killed off a five-on-three for nearly two full minutes and then Alex Gray scored on a breakaway right after that. It was goal after goal after that. Once we got that one in, it seemed to come easier," said MacLeod.

Aiken also scored in the final. Robart scored twice in a pool game as South West beat Rivers West 7-4 and Parkland Valley 3-1.

"We had players from all over the district which was nice," said MacLeod. "Some of the girls were on the Swift Current AAA midget team, so I know some of the girls were pretty excited to play with them because it's another level of hockey from what they're playing now. They got the chance to play with some pretty skilled athletes."

The tournament also doubled as an evaluation tool for the provincial under-16 team.

The male curling team of skip Carson Ackerman, third Mitch Dales, second Kacey Rodland and lead Brett Behm set a goal to finish in the top-four at the Games at the start of their season. They did much bette than that.

They lost their opening game 6-4 to Lakeland, but rallied to beat South East 7-2 and Saskatoon 8-4 to earn a trip to the semifinals.

"We came out a little shaky in the first game and pulled it together. Things went well from there on," said

There they beat Regina 5-3 in the semi and then beat Rivers West 6-4 in the final. Both games were very similar. Each game was back-and-forth game, but Ackerman led by a point coming home without the hammer and forced his opponent to get a piece of the button with the final draw each time.

"The semifinal and the final were both very close games," said Ackerman. "(In the semifinal) he had to draw a little tiny piece of the pin with his last shot. It was a really tough shot and he was about four inches heavy and that's how we won it.

"In the final he had the same kind of shot (Regina) was left with and he over-curled and wrecked on a guard and we stole one for a win."

The win means a lot for the Ackerman foursome. As one of the top two teams at the Sask Winter Games qualified for Canada Games training.

"For the next year our team will get a nutritionist, a personal trainer, a Canadian coach that will work with us. There's us and five other teams they chose from Saskatchewan and then in September of 2015 we'll all play off to decide who gets to go to the Canada Games. Now it's really, really serious," said Ackerman.

With all of that on the line for the top two teams, reaching the final was almost as significant as winning gold.

"I was more nervous for the semifinal than I was for the final," said Ackerman. "I knew what it meant to finish in the top two and qualify for that Canada Games training."

Organizations: Canada Games

Geographic location: South West, Moose Jaw, Davidson Prince Albert Regina South East Swift Current Parkland Valley Lakeland Saskatchewan

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