VICTORIA – When the XXI Commonwealth Games get underway in Gold Coast, Australia on Apr. 4 there will undoubtedly be a University of Victoria flair to the proceedings. A total of 19 former or current UVic student-athletes will compete at the games, vying for medals in four different sports: rugby, field hockey, diving and swimming.
The largest portion of Vikes participating will be on the rugby pitch, with eight out of the 14 players named to the Canada Men’s 7s Team having suited up for the Vikes at one time or another.
Justin Douglas, Lucas Hammond, Nathan Hirayama, Isaac Kaay, Pat Kay, Mike Fuailefau, Luke McCloskey and John Moonlight will all be members of a Canadian team trying to improve upon the bowl victory that the team recorded at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
Canada will compete in a pool with New Zealand, Kenya and Zambia at the games, with their first match coming on Apr. 14 against Kenya.
Pam Buisa, who most recently suited up with the Vikes women’s rugby squad when the team won their first national banner in program history at the Canadian University 7s Championships in March 2017, was named a travelling alternate for the Canadian Women’s Rugby team in Australia.
Much like the men’s side, the Canadian women have been drawn into a difficult pool alongside one of the favourites for the title, New Zealand, as well as tough teams from South Africa and Kenya.
Seven former Vikes field hockey players: four men and three women will suit up in the red and white of Team Canada at the games.
Brenden Bissett, James Kirkpatrick, Matthew Sarmento and Keegan Pereira will all play for a Canadian team that finished sixth at the most recent Commonwealth games in Glasgow. The Vikes quartet will undoubtedly be counted on for their experience, as they bring a combined 348 international caps into the tournament.
The top two teams from an extremely competitive pool that includes world ranked No. 1 Australia, No. 9 New Zealand, No. 11 Canada, No. 15 South Africa and No. 23 Scotland will move on to the semi finals.
Kathleen Leahy, Danielle Hennig and Kaitlyn Williams meanwhile, will all suit up for the Canadian National Women’s Field Hockey team at the games. Between the three of them: Leahy, Hennig and Williams boast an outstanding list of accomplishments from their time at UVic. A 2008 U SPORTS National Championship gold medal, two Canada West Championship titles, three National silver medals and four National bronze medals to go along with U SPORTS Rookie of the Year, U SPORTS Outstanding Contributor and seven All-Canadian honours.
Team Canada will begin their tournament on April 5 against the host nation squad from Australia.
Three Vikes will be competing in the pool in Australia, with Hilary Caldwell and Jeremy Bagshaw swimming and Celina Toth competing for Canada’s diving team.
The veteran Caldwell will participate in the 200-metre backstroke where the 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medallist will face perhaps her stiffest competition in the form of her fellow countrymen. Canadian Taylor Ruck is fastest in the world this year after her time of 2:06.36 at the Pro Swim Series in Atlanta, with Kylie Masse No. 2 at 2:07.47.
Caldwell, who won two gold and one silver U SPORTS National Championship medals in her time with the Vikes, was also a bronze medallist in the 200-metre backstroke at the 2014 Commonwealth games.
Joining Caldwell in the pool is Jeremy Bagshaw, who captured gold in the 400- and silver in the 200-metre freestyles at the 2017 Canadian Swimming Trials at the Commonwealth Pool in Victoria.
Rounding out the Vikes contingent at the games is diver Celina Toth. Toth earned herself a spot on the team by winning gold in the 10-metre platform at the Canadian Trials in Saskatoon.
Toth was the standout UVic athlete at the most recent FISU World Universiade Games that took place this past summer in Taipei City, TPE. Toth earned silver in the mixed team diving event and bronze in the 10-metre platform at those games. Both Toth and Bagshaw are University of Victoria students but did not compete with UVic varsity teams.