UVic athletes compete at the Olympics, Paralympics

- Natalie Wise, Vikes Communications

UVic athletes made major contributions to the successes of Canada's teams competing in the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in London. In the lead-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics many knew that the unparalleled success of Canadian athletes at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver would be a tough act to follow. However, after an exciting 14 days that ran the gamut of unbelievable successes to heartbreaking failures, Vikes and Vikes alumni earned just shy of a quarter of our nation's Olympic medals.

The largest contingent of Vikes attending the Games came from the Canadian rowing team, a program with its national headquarters based in Victoria at Elk Lake. Both the Vikes men's and women's teams also train at the Saanich location, giving UVic's athletes the opportunity for greater exposure at the national and international level.

Hailing from Saskatchewan, Vikes alumni Rachelle Viinberg (n&e#180;e de Jong) attended her third Olympic Games after being named as an injured alternate for the team traveling to Athens in 2004 and placing eighth in the women's eights in Beijing. In London, alongside teammate and former Vike Darcy Marquardt, Viinberg was crowned a silver medalist with Canada's women's eights. Marquardt, originally from Vancouver, was also taking part in her third Olympic Games.

Additionally, Victoria-born rower and former Vike Lindsay Jennerich took part in the lightweight women's double sculls event. After qualifying for the semifinal, Jennerich and partner Patricia Obee did not make it through to the final.

Former Vikes Gabe Bergen and Doug Csima also returned home as Olympic silver medalists in the men's eights. The Canadian crew qualified for the finals in the repechage and pulled ahead of the home team, Great Britain, in the last 250m of the 2000m race. Making his Olympic debut at the London Games, Bergen, of 100 Mile House, BC, is no stranger to elite-level sports. His father rowed in the 1976 Summer Olympics, while his brother is a fellow UVic alumnus, having played for the Vikes men's basketball team. Csima, originally from Mississauga, ON, recently graduated from UVic with a master's in health information science.

Four of Canada's swim team were former or current Vikes. Ryan Cochrane, a social sciences student, won a bronze medal four years ago in Beijing and this year he laid claim to one of Canada's five silver medals. In the men's 1500m, the 24-year-old raced a personal best and placed second to earn the second Olympic medal of his career.

Canada saw additional success in the water as Vikes swimmer Richard Weinberger earned bronze in the 10-km open water swim. The marathon swim made its debut at the 2008 games, but Weinberger was the first Canadian to both compete and medal in the event.
Vike Stephanie Horner qualified for London in the 400m individual medley but did not qualify for the final. Former Vike Hilary Caldwell also made her Olympic debut in the 200m backstroke.

Four athletes with UVic connections took part in the London 2012 Paralympics, Aug. 29 to Sept. 9: wheelchair basketball players Jessica Vliegenthart and former UVic Vike Janet McLachlan, swimmer Brianna Nelson, and Tim Rees who competes in judo.

The Canadian women's wheelchair basketball team progressed to the quarterfinals, where they lost to the US.

McLachlan, of North Vancouver, was attending her second Paralympic Games as a member of the Canadian women's wheelchair basketball team. She has played wheelchair basketball since 2006, after she sustained a severe knee injury competing with a provincial rugby team. Before the injury, she played for the Vikes women's basketball team from 1995 to 2000, helping the Vikes to two of their nine national titles.

Vliegenthart, a UVic law grad, was competing in her first Paralympic Games. She began the sport in 2006 and within a year was named to Team BC for the 2007 Canada Winter Games. In 2009 she was selected to the national women's team.

Nelson won silver medals in the 50m butterfly and the 200m S7 individual medley, in which she set a new Canadian record. The UVic psychology and history student also finished seventh in both the 4x100m freestyle relay and the 100m freestyle and eighth in the 100m backstroke and 100m breaststroke.

Rees, a postdoctoral research fellow at UVic's School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, suffered a loss in his first match and did not move on in the competition. He previously had fifth- and seventh-place finishes at the World Paralympic Games in 2011 and 2010, and won bronze at the 2011 Parapan American Games.


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Keywords: rowing, athletics, Olympics

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