By Charlie Pinkerton
In the Ottawa Sports Awards 65th year, the annual sports recognition organization is set to do itself one-better by recognizing 66 athletes at its annual banquet on Jan. 31.
Set to take home top honours at the gala held at Algonquin College is Male Athlete of the Year, speed skater, Vincent De Haître, and Female Athlete of the Year, curler, Rachel Homan.
Homan’s curling team was named the Ottawa Sports Awards Female Team of the Year as well, taking twice the hardware for the second time in four years. It’s also the seventh time in total that the team has been honoured with the award that they first won in 2007.
With the Winter Olympics quickly approaching for both athletes, both De Haître and Homan will miss the banquet.
But Rachel and the rest of Team Homan – Emma Miskew, Lisa Weagle, Joanne Courtney, and coach, Adam Kingsbury – were presented their awards a night early by Ottawa Sports Awards co-chair Barclay Frost at the team’s official Olympics send-off at the Ottawa Curling Club.
“You’re important to the history of Ottawa and you’re going forward to make more history,” Frost said during the presentation of the awards in which he compared the athletic achievements of Homan against the likes of Barbara Ann Scott, Sue Holloway and Kristina Groves, among others.
In his speech, Frost also drew attention to Earle Morris, the long-time coach of Team Homan who was in attendance as well. Later, the crowd gave Morris a standing ovation following the praise of Homan. He’ll be celebrated at the Sports Awards’ banquet, receiving the Brian Kilrea Lifetime Achievement Award for Coaching.
After retiring from his own competitive career, in which he reached three Briers himself, Morris became one of the sport’s most impactful coaches. The Saskatchewan-native who moved to Ottawa in 1983 would coach his son, John Morris, to a Canadian Junior Curling Championship, before doing the same with Homan. He also coached Jennifer Jones’ rink and Australia’s national curling team as well as inventing the stabilizer curling broom.
At 72, Morris hasn’t yet retired from coaching. Of Canada’s three curling teams at the Olympics, Morris has spent time coaching members of each.
His son spoke to the Ottawa Sportspage about the impact he had on him as a coach.
“I had a bit of a temper when I was a kid and maybe I didn’t have the best attitude out there when I was younger,” he said. “I remember (Earle) pulled me aside after one bonspiel and said, ‘you’ve stop showing your emotion and getting angry out there, because you’ll run out of teammates to place with,’ and that really hit home with me.”
Like Homan, the younger Morris will be a former pupil of Earle’s competing for a medal at this year’s Olympics.
“He’s just very good at bringing the best out of people,” John Morris said.
As well as Morris, three others (Bob Wilson – Mayor’s Cup, George Findley – Technical Official, Cathy Skinner – Sports Volunteer) will be honoured with lifetime awards at the Ottawa Sports Awards.
Also set to be honoured with major awards for their outstanding seasons in 2017 is the Carleton University Ravens men’s basketball team, who are winning the award for the 12th time – matching national championships they won in each year of recognition.
Jen Boyd will collect her third consecutive Female Coach of the Year award. In 2017, her Gee-Gees women’s rugby team won their fourth straight RSEQ conference championship and finally captured their first national championship.
Taffe Charles will be awarded the Male Coach of the Year for the first time. Charles led the Carleton Ravens women’s basketball team to its most successful season in history (18-1 in the regular season) and won a bronze medal at the national championships after winning their first ever OUA title.
Visit the Ottawa Sports Awards’ website for info about all of this year’s winners.
Here are the Sports Awards’ tribute videos, dedicated and made with each of the year’s Lifetime Award recipients: