NAPLES, Italy (U SPORTS) – The 30th Summer Universiade is officially underway in southern Italy after a stirring Opening Ceremony Wednesday night at San Paolo Stadium in Naples, wrapping up Canada’s second day of competition at the biennial event.
FISU.TV (Semifinals and finals only)
Laurentian men’s basketball star Kadre Gray, the reigning U SPORTS player of the year, led the Canadian contingent into the ceremony punctuated by produced by Marco Balich, a veteran of more than 20 Olympic ceremonies. The spectacular show featured more than 800 performers to entertain a sold-out crowd at the recently-renovated stadium.
“It was an inspiring night and a perfect way to officially start the Summer Universiade,” said Ari Grossman, the Canadian head of delegation. “It is always a privilege to walk into a stadium behind the Maple Leaf, and for many of these athletes this will be their only opportunity to do so. I’m ready to go, and I know our athletes are too – let the games begin!”
The evening’s highlight was a performance by renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, whose incredible rendition of Nessun Dorma closed the show and sent the athletes off to the competition.
Prior to the ceremony, the Canadian diving and women’s basketball teams were in competition Wednesday.
At Naples, after squeaking into the semifinal ranked 13th after the preliminary round, Mia Vallee responded in a big way qualifying first overall for Thursday’s 1 m springboard final. The Kirkland, Que., native from College de Maisonneuve registered a top score of 48.00 points on her first semifinal attempt en route to an overall score of 228.6, 2.70 points ahead of Mexico’s Carolina Mendoza. The final is scheduled for 6 a.m. EDT / 3 a.m. PDT (12 p.m. local) and will be streamed live on FISU.tv.
Peter Mai took to the board for the second time in as many days and qualified fifth in the 3 m springboard preliminary. The College d’Ahuntsic student’s best dive of the day came on his third attempt and earned 68.25 points. The semifinals are set for 4 a.m. EDT / 1 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. local) with the finals to follow at 10:45 a.m. EDT / 7:45 a.m. PDT (4:45 p.m. local).
At Cercola, the Canadian women’s basketball team opened its Universiade with an 84-69 setback against China.
Reigning U SPORTS player of the year Sarah-Jane Marois scored 15 points to lead Canada, which nearly surmounted a 26-point deficit after three quarters, chipping the Chinese lead down to as few as nine.
“We had a really slow start,” said Canadian head coach Michèle Bélanger. “We had some great shots that just didn’t drop early in the game and then it was a little bit of a runaway train in the third quarter.
“I thought we had an outstanding fourth quarter. We narrowed it down and the girls felt a little more relaxed. We started to run and keep the pace up. We had some really good moments. I think that it was a great team to play in our first game. It’s too bad that the score doesn’t dictate how we finished but overall I was pleased with the effort.”
Canada (0-1) gets right back to it Thursday, facing Australia (1-0) at 11:30 a.m. EDT / 9:30 a.m. PDT (5:30 p.m. local) in Avellino, Italy, looking to get in the win column in Group D.