U Sports unveils nominees for male and female athletes of the year

U Sports unveils nominees for male and female athletes of the year

OTTAWA — An aspiring Olympian, a runner conquering autoimmune disease and a history-making goaltender are among the nominees for U Sports athletes of the year.

Manitoba swimmer Kelsey Wog, Toronto runner Lucia Stafford and Saskatchewan hockey player Taran Kozun were three of the finalists announced Thursday for the Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards, which will be announced June 25.

Toronto hockey player David Thompson, Montreal soccer player Aboubacar Sissoko, Laval rugby player Fabiola Forteza, and basketball players Keevan Veinot from Dalhousie and Jenna Mae Ellsworth from the University of Prince Edward Island are the other finalists

Each of the four conferences in U Sport nominate a male and female athlete for the Doug Mitchell and Jim Thompson trophies respectively. The male and female winners each receive post-graduate scholarships of $10,000.

Previous winners include CFL players Jesse Lumsden, Don Blair and Andrew Buckley as well as Olympic swimmer Kylie Masse, heptathlete Jessica Zelinka and hockey player Kim St. Pierre.

A couple of this year’s nominees had seasons impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including Kozun.

The native of Nipawin, Sask., became the first to earn both top goaltender and player-of-the-year U Sports awards in men’s hockey. He was also the second goalie in Canada West history to score a goal, performing the feat in a January game against the Calgary Dinos.

The Huskies were the No. 2 seed for the University Cup in March which was cancelled because of the pandemic.

Wog won four gold medals for the Bisons in February’s national swimming championship, but COVID-19 put the Winnipegger’s Olympic aspirations on hold. The Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021 because of the pandemic, and so were Canada’s swim trials.

Stafford claimed the national women’s cross-country title in November for the Varsity Blues, and added track and field gold medals in the 1,000 and 1,500 metres. The Toronto native has Graves Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder causing an overactive thyroid.

Her Varsity Blues hockey counterpart Thompson scored 17 goals and assisted on 23 to finish second in men’s OUA scoring. The forward from Vaughn, Ont., led the conference in power-play goals with seven.

Sissoko helped the Carabins earn a silver medal at the national men’s soccer championship. The Mali-born midfielder has been signed by the Canadian Premier League’s Halifax Wanderers.

Montreal’s Forteza was chosen player of the match in leading the Rouge et Or to their first U Sports women’s rugby title. She scored three tries this past season and has been recruited by Rugby Canada for international matches.

Veinot helped Dalhousie capture a silver medal at the national men’s basketball championship. The guard from Port Williams, N.S., led the Atlantic conference in steals with an average of 2.3 per game, and assists averaging 5.5 per game.

Charlottetown’s Ellsworth scored 20.5 points per game for the UPEI women’s hoops team in conference games. The Panthers won a bronze medal at the national championship.

Canadian university sport honours have been presented since 1993 first as the Howard Mackie Awards and then the BLG Awards named for the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais.

The brand was relaunched in 2019 by Alberta’s lieutenant-governor Lois Mitchell and husband Doug Mitchell, a BLG co-chair and former CFL player and commissioner who founded the awards.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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