Acceptance speeches from three continents punctuate the St. Catharines Sports Awards Ceremony

With Zoom calls from Daugavpils, Latvia; Portland, Oregon, as well as two Victorias – the city in British Columbia; State in Australia – A Monday night ceremony at St Catharines Town Hall honoring the city’s best athletes over the past two years felt like a production of long-running television program ABC’s Wide of Sports.

Unlike that anthology series, which ran from 1961 to 1998, the honors for the 2020 and 2021 co-athletes of the year emphasized “the thrill of victory,” not the “agony of defeat.” Two Olympians and two members of the 2019-20 U Sports silver medalist women’s basketball team from Brock University were commended for their achievements, including overcoming adversity.

Rowing mate Kristen Kit and long-distance runner Mohammed Ahmed shared the 2021 Jimmy Joy Memorial Trophy after each winning a medal representing Canada at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Kit, a cross-country runner who took up rowing as a consolation sport as a 9th grade student at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School, led the women’s eights to Canada’s first rowing gold since 1996.

Ahmed, a native of Mogadishu, Somalia, who was 11 when his family moved to St. Catharines after 10 years in Kenya, made his adopted country proud by rebounding from a sixth-place finish in the men’s 10,000 meters and silver over 5,000 meters won week later.

Kit, 33, accepted her award virtually from Victoria, BC, where she trains with the Canadian national team and already has her sights set on the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.

Ahmed, 31, lives in Oregon and competes for the Bowerman Track Club, a Portland-based training group for professional distance runners sponsored by Nike Inc.

In his speech, the St. Catharines Collegiate graduate said that St. Catharines “will always be my home,” regardless of his current address, and thanked the Niagara Olympic Club and coach Sharon Stewart for the role they played in his development as a played runners.

Kit and Ahmed are the first Olympians to be honored as elite athletes in the same year since the award was first presented in 1968. Kit also represented Canada at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she won bronze in a coxswain mixed foursome. while Ahmed finished 18th in the 10,000 at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and fourth in the 5,000 four years later in Rio.

This is the fourth time the runner, nicknamed Mo Speed, has been named St. Catharines Athlete of the Year. He also won the award in 2009, 2016 and 2019.

Paul Coates received the Rex Stimers Memorial Trophy for the instrumental role he played in integrating junior lacrosse development at St. Catharines under the same roof. Separate organizations operated the Junior A Athletics and Junior B Spartans prior to a change that greatly eased player movement between the two junior programs.

The longtime community volunteer also worked with the Ontario Junior-A Lacrosse League to hold a championship tournament over three weekends after COVID-19 threatened to cancel the season for the second straight year. St. Catharines won the single site tournament held in Oakville.

While Sam Keltos and Melissa Tatti shared the 2020 Female Athlete of Honor for their outstanding game on the basketball court for Brock University women’s head coach Mike Rao, 2020 St. Catharines Female Athlete of the Year, pandemic restrictions prevented them from being officially recognized for it Successes. The organizers of the televised ceremony, held in the council chambers ahead of Monday night’s city council meeting, decided to honor the honorees from each of the past two years.

Rao, a retired educator from Welland who coached Notre Dame College School’s senior boys team for 36 years before taking over the women’s program at Brock, personally attended the ceremony, as did 2021 Female Athlete of the Year, St. Catharines Athletics Lacrosse Club President Paul Coates.

Keltos and Tatti took part in Zoom calls. Keltos, a Churchill grad who joined Brock after three seasons in NCAA Division I at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY, is completing her freshman year with the Western Port Steelers in Australia’s Big V League. The spring-summer season is scheduled to be completed in August.

Tatti, who played her high school basketball shoes at Bishop Tonnos in Ancaster, plays in Latvia with the Daugavils Universitate of the Pullman Latvijas Sieviesu Basketbola Liga, a league in Latvia.

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