July 22, 2021 | Alumni
On your marks, get set ... U of T alumni, students and staff head to the Tokyo Olympics
By Geoffrey Vendeville
Clockwise from top left: Crispin Duenas (BSc 2011 VIC, BEd 2013), Rosie MacLennan (BPHE 2011, MSc 2018), Kylie Masse and Alicia Brown (BA 2013 UTM) (photos by Canadian Olympic Committee, Team Canada, Martin Bazyl, Athletics Canada)
More than a dozen University of Toronto alumni, students and staff will be vying for Olympic glory as the Tokyo Games kick off this week.
Kylie Masse (BKin 2021), who is the reigning world champion in the 100-metre backstroke, a former Varsity Blues star and a graduate of the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, will look to top her Olympic bronze medal finish in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. She enters this year’s Games having recently broken her own Canadian record in the 100m backstroke with a time of 57.70 seconds.
"I just wanted to be the fastest I could possibly be, and I've been trying to break that 58 [second] barrier and that personal-best time from 2017. I was really happy to do that here tonight," she told CBC last month.
Rosie MacLennan (BPHE 2011, MSc 2018), the first trampolinist to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals and Canada’s flag bearer in Rio, will try to make history again by making it three in a row.
“I go into every competition with the intention to do the best that I can on that day and see where it lands me,” said MacLennan, who graduated from U of T with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health and also holds a master’s in kinesiology and exercise science, told Canada’s national broadcaster last month.
Archer Crispin Duenas (BSc 2011 VIC, BEd 2013), who holds a degree in physics from U of T and another from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, is going to his fourth Olympics. While a knowledge of physics doesn’t play a direct role in ensuring Duenas hit his targets – credit untold hours of practice and training for that – he told U of T News in 2014 that it helps him in indirect ways.
“Understanding the concepts of physics definitely plays a big role in conceptualizing archery,” he said. “It helps a great deal when I'm tuning my equipment and trying to understand the weather conditions that surround me while I'm shooting.”
Alicia Brown (BA 2013 UTM), a U of T Mississauga graduate in communications, culture, information and technology, will once again represent Canada in the 4x400-metre relay after helping the national team snag fourth place in the relay the last time around, as well as 28th spot in the 400-metre event.
In the women’s 1500m, two U of T alumni will be seeking a spot on the podium: sisters Gabriela DeBues-Stafford (BSc 2019 VIC) and Lucia Stafford (BASc 2021). Going into her second Olympics, DeBues-Stafford ran a personal best of 3:56.12 in the 1500-metre race at the track and field world championships in Doha two years ago – setting a Canadian record.
The Tokyo Games will be the first Olympics for DeBues-Stafford’s younger sister Lucia Stafford (BASc 2021), who was named U of T’s female athlete of the year in 2019-2020 and graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
Her friend Madeleine Kelly (BSc 2016 UC), an anthropology and English graduate who writes for Canadian Running Magazine, will compete in the 800-metre race. On Instagram, Kelly thanked her U of T track teammates for pushing her to new heights. “I was part of a team of collegiate women who didn’t want to just be good – they were committed to being great,” she said.
Heather Bansley (BA 2010 UC), an English graduate and former members of the Varsity Blues volleyball team, is heading to her second Olympics after securing a fifth-place finish in Rio. She and her new partner, Brandie Wilkerson, face the Netherlands on July 23 at 11 pm EDT. “Tokyo will be my second Olympics and Brandie’s first,” Bansley said on Instagram after qualifying. “I feel incredibly grateful and honoured to share this dream with her and help each other realize our Olympic goals.”
In badminton, Michelle Li, who studied management at U of T and who is Canada’s most successful female badminton player, represented her country in the 2012 and 2016 Games – and will now compete in the women’s singles in Tokyo beginning on July 24.
Cyclist Annie Foreman-Mackey (MPH 2019), a gold medalist in the team pursuit at the 2019 Pan American Championships, will be racing in the track event at Tokyo. A graduate of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health with a master’s degree in public health, social and behavioural sciences, Foreman-Mackey qualified for the Games during her first year of medical school at the University of British Columbia.
Matthew Cabraja, a math and physical science major who joined the Varsity Blues swim team last fall, will be competing in his first Paralympics in the S11 category for athletes with full visual impairment.
“I hope that young people with disabilities understand that they can do things, just like I am,” he told Swim Ontario. “You just have to find what you enjoy and work hard at being the best you can.”
Rachel Honderich, a kinesiology student and doubles badminton player, enters her first Olympics following a gold medal performance at the 2021 Pan American Championships in Guatemala alongside her partner Kristen Tsai.
Ruslan Gaziev, an incoming U of T Mississauga student and freestyle swimmer, will be participating in his first Olympics. “I’m really excited about my future and also the future of Canadian swimming,” he wrote on Instagram. “I believe we’re only scratching the surface of what we’re capable of doing.”
Gabriel Mastromatteo, a Rotman Commerce student and Varsity Blues swimmer, joins Gaziev on Canada’s swim team. He holds the third-best Canadian time in the 100-metre breaststroke finishing in 1:00.19 at the latest Olympic trials.
In addition to students and alumni, U of T swim coach staff will be participating in the Olympics as coaches and commentators. George Gross, Jr., the Varsity Blues’ women’s water polo head coach, is CBC’s water polo commentator, while Byron MacDonald, the Varsity Blues’ head swim coach, will reprise his role as CBC’s swimming commentator.
Earlier this month, Varsity Blues assistant head swim coach, who is also a U of T alumna, Linda Kiefer (BPHE 1983, BEd 1984) became the sixth member of the coaching staff for the Canadian swim team. Edison Au (BScPT 1998), a U of T alumnus, Varsity Blues rugby player and former physical therapist at the MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic, will be the physiotherapist for the Canadian men's field hockey team.
Put that all behind you and enjoy your race
Bruce Kidd (BA 1965 UC), who ran track for Canada at the 1964 Olympics and currently serves as the University’s ombudsperson, wished the U of T community well at the Tokyo Games.
“You’ve persisted through some of the most stressful preparations and social conditions anyone could imagine, and you made it to the starting line,” he said. “Put that all behind you and enjoy your race.”
Photo credits: Martin Bazyl, Team Canada, Claus Andersen/Athletics Canada, Mathieu Belanger, Athletics Canada, FIVB, Athletics Canada, no credit, Team Canada, Scott Grant/Swimming Canada, Scott Grant/Swimming Canada, Swimming Canada,Team Canada and Team Canada
Cheers to U of T’s amazing Olympians! We’re so proud of you reaching the highest stage of competition, for giving it your all, for being wonderful ambassadors for athleticism and striving for excellence.
Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson were fifth overall in beach volleyball, making it to the quarter finals!
Alicia Brown helped her 4x400m relay team make it to the finals, and come fourth in a sizzling 3:21.84!
Matthew Cabraja finished in the top 10 in all four of his Paralympic events, and swam a Canadian record 1:05.97 to finish 5th in the S11 100m butterfly!
Gabriela DeBues-Stafford won her qualifying 1500m heat, came third in the semifinals and came fifth overall in 3:58.93!
Crispin Duenas shot up the archery rankings and finished fifth overall!
Annie Foreman-MacKey helped the women’s cycling team to fourth place in the team event!
Ruslan Gaziev helped his 4x400m freestyleswim relay team to a fourth place finish!
Rachel Honderich played three badminton doubles matches in the preliminary round, winning one in a shut-out!
Madeleine Kelly ranked 31st after running a great 800m race in 2:02.39!
Michelle Li shut out two opponents en route to finishing 9th overall in singles badminton!
Kylie Masse came home with two silver medals in the 100m and 200m backstroke, and helped the 4x100m swim relay team to a bronze!
Gabe Mastromatteo swam the 100m breaststroke in 1:01:56 to place 38th and helped power the men’s 4x100m and mixed 4x100m medley relay teams to 7th and 13 places!
Rosie MacLennan bounced into a fourth place finish in trampoline while enjoying her *fourth* Olympic finals competition!
Lucia Stafford came third in her 1500m heat to qualify for the semifinals and then bettered her time to 4:02:12 to place 13th overall!