VICTORIA – As Victoria and the University of Victoria celebrates the 20-year anniversary of hosting the 1994 Commonwealth Games, several island-based athletes are getting ready for the 2014 games later this summer in Glasgow, Scotland. There will be no shortage of Vikes representing Canada at the XX Commonwealth Games as thirteen former or current Vikes student-athletes and one coach will embark on a journey to medal in field hockey, rowing, rugby sevens or swimming.
In rugby sevens, Canada has made huge strides after earning their best-ever finish, sixth overall, in the 2013-14 IRB Sevens World Series. The 12-member squad will feature captain and former Vike John Moonlight who was recently named to the 2013-14 IRB Sevens World Series Dream Team. Joining Moonlight are returning Vikes Sean Duke, Nathan Hirayama and Lucas Hammond, while Justin Douglas is expected to kit up with the Vikes in the Fall.
“It’s exciting that the games are in Glasgow, where we put together our best performance in history this past May finishing second in the Glasgow IRB 7s series event,” said Duke, who has been a student at UVic for six years now. “I can say with confidence that putting on a Canada jersey will never get old. Some of my best memories have been while representing our country and I hope to continue creating memories with my teammates for years to come.”
Canada’s rugby sevens team are amongst steep competition in Pool A including defending champions New Zealand, as well as Barbados, and hosts Scotland. Sixteen teams will vie for gold across the two-day competition, which runs July 26-27 at Ibrox Stadium.
Field hockey will also have a large Vikes contingency present as former Vikes Thea Culley, Danielle Hennig and Kaitlyn Williams will suit up for the women’s team, while Keegan Pereira will compete for Canada’s men’s squad. Long-time Vikes assistant coach Krista Thompson will be a member of the women’s team staff, pulling double duty as manager and assistant coach.
“Speed and grit are our two biggest strengths that are completely natural to the team,” said Culley. “In addition, we have really started to click as a team and develop our tactical systems. We have been working really hard to develop our own style of play.”
Culley, who also competed in the 2010 Games, will lead Canada’s field hockey team as the highest capped current player (106), while Hennig and Williams have established themselves as core leaders on the squad. Both the men’s and women’s teams will begin on Jul. 24 at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre.
“It’s always exciting heading into a major games,” said Hennig, who, alongside Williams will be competing in her first Commonwealth Games. “The atmosphere of being in an athletes village and being part of a larger Team Canada is a great experience. My time with the Vikes was a huge stepping-stone for me. The Vikes was always where I could practice new concepts and skills and build my confidence as I moved to the international game.”
Vikes rower Lee Tate Hall can relate, as he will be competing in his first Commonwealth Games.
“When I started rowing I never believed I would be able to represent Canada,” said Hall after selection to the team. “My time with the Vikes has prepared me well. Howie Campbell (former Vikes rowing head coach) created an atmosphere with enough emotional pressure that anything else pales in comparison. This in particular prepared me best for this competition and training with the national team. This is because anyone can be excellent in the best conditions, but perseverance through adversity is what creates champions.”
Hall will race in the heavy men’s four, starting Aug. 9, as well as the light men’s double and pair.
Swimmer and former Vike Ryan Cochrane will compete in his second Commonwealth Games in three events (1500m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 800m freestyle). In 2010, Cochrane earned Canada’s first gold medal of the games in the 400-m freestyle and became the first Canadian in 72 years to win gold in that event at the Commonwealth Games. Vikes alumni Hilary Caldwell (200m backstroke) and Will Brothers (1500-m freestyle) will also be competing for Canada at the games. Vike Alec Page, originally set to race in the 400 IM, was recently removed from the list after a doping infraction.
The XX Commonwealth Games begins July 23 and will finish on Aug. 3. For more information on the event visit Glasgow2014.com.
UVic Vikes competing at the XX Commonwealth Games:
Krista Thompson (Asst. Coach)
Lee Tate Hall