Cheer on Sask for the Paris Olympic Summer Games

Following years of dedication to sport through the grassroots level to high performance, 23 individuals from Saskatchewan will represent the province at the Olympic Summer Games July 26 to August 11in Paris.

The contingent will feature three support and mission staff, five coaches and 15 athletes with ties to the province.

Humboldt’s Paige Crozon will not only be making her Olympic debut in women’s 3×3 basketball, but this will also mark the first time a Canadian team has qualified in the event on either the men’s or women’s side.

Joining her and making their second-straight appearances at the Games will be Pike Lake diver Rylan Wiens, who will take part in both the men’s 10-metre individual and synchronized events, and Regina artistic swimming co-captain Kenzie Priddell.

Other athletes include diver Margo Erlam, athletics athletes Michelle Harrison, Anicka Newell and Savannah Sutherland, water polo player Blaire McDowell, rugby 7s player Carissa Norsten, boxer Tammara Thibeault, basketball player Trey Lyles, swimmers Blake Tierney and Kelsey Wog, as well as artistic swimming alternate Sydney Carroll. Swimmer Ovesh Purahoo will also be at the Games, competing for Team Mauritius.

“Congratulations to the athletes, coaches, officials and support staff who will be representing Saskatchewan at the 2024 Olympics in Paris,” Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross said. “Thank you for your commitment to sport and for inspiring our province. You are role models and ambassadors for your communities, for Saskatchewan and for Canada. We will be cheering you on!”

Coaching for Team Canada, Lisa Borgerson (shooting) is attending her third Olympics, while Mary Carroll (diving) is attending her second and Chris Belof (athletics) will make his Olympic debut. Lisa Thomaidis and Connor Jay will be coaching Germany’s women’s basketball team.

Team Canada mission staff will include Chris Dornan and Lisa Hoffart, while Graham Olson will support the Canadian swimming team.

“Each of these individuals are terrific ambassadors for sport in Saskatchewan,” said Luke Flegel, Sask Sport Chair. “On behalf of the amateur sport system in our province, I would like to congratulate all the athletes, coaches, mission and support staff, as well as officials, on reaching sport’s grandest stage. Attending the Olympic Games is a tremendous accomplishment, and each member of the contingent should be commended for their achievement as should all those who assisted them along their journey. Please join in our celebration to show all of them that you are Sask Proud.”

Join Sask Sport, Sask Lotteries and the Canadian Sport Centre Saskatchewan on cheeronsask.ca for everything you need to know about the Olympics and Paralympics. The website documents the athletes, coaches, officials and staff from Saskatchewan on their journey to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, features a comprehensive schedule specific to the Saskatchewan athletes that includes date, times, viewing options and results and will house daily recaps with results and information specific to the Saskatchewan contingent. It will also feature an aggregate of news from the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and National Sport Organizations.  

Follow along on social media on @SaskSport, @SaskLotteries and @CSCSaskatchewan and use the hashtag #SaskProud for further updates and information from cheeronsask.ca.  

Olympic Notes: Janine Beckie, whose parents were involved in the Saskatchewan amateur sport system for a number of years, will compete on the Canadian women’s soccer team …

Paris Olympic Summer Games – Saskatchewan Contingent

ATHLETES

Sydney Carroll – Artistic Swimming (alternate), Saskatoon
Paige Crozon – 3×3 Basketball, Humboldt
Margo Erlam – Diving, Saskatoon
Michelle Harrison – Athletics, Saskatoon
Trey Lyles – Basketball, Saskatoon
Blaire McDowell – Water Polo, Regina
Anicka Newell – Athletics, Saskatoon
Carissa Norsten – Rugby 7s, Waldheim
Kenzie Priddell – Artistic Swimming, Regina
Ovesh Purahoo – Swimming, Regina, Team Mauritius
Savannah Sutherland – Athletics, Borden
Tammara Thibeault – Boxing, Regina
Blake Tierney – Swimming, Saskatoon
Rylan Wiens – Diving, Pike Lake
Kelsey Wog – Swimming, Saskatoon

COACHES

Chris Belof – Athletics, Regina
Lisa Borgerson – Shooting, Fort Qu’Appelle
Mary Carroll – Diving, Saskatoon
Connor Jay – Basketball, Saskatoon, Team Germany
Lisa Thomaidis – Basketball, Saskatoon, Team Germany

SUPPORT STAFF

Chris Dornan – Team Canada Media Attache, Saskatoon
Lisa Hoffart – Team Canada Mental Health Practitioner, Regina
Graham Olson – Swimming Performance Analyst, Saskatoon

The volunteers behind the North American Indigenous Games

Among the 12,000 sport, culture and recreation programs funded by the Sask Lotteries Trust Fund, the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) captures a unique combination of sport and culture.

In 2023, Team Saskatchewan, compiled of more than 500 athletes and over 130 volunteers captured the championship title at the 10th edition of NAIG in various venues across Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Dartmouth, Millbrook First Nation and Sipeke’katik in Nova Scotia.

For NAIG to take place, it takes numerous individuals volunteering their time and energy in the different regions, to bring together an event that unites people, from across North America.

NAIG is held once every four years, but the work behind the scenes never fully comes to end for the host and provinces. Once the multi-sport event concludes, the preparation for the following one begins.

Team Saskatchewan’s Chef de Mission works alongside countless others to organize over 50 different teams. The volunteers set the scene for each NAIG and are the individuals who bring the event to life for Saskatchewan’s athletes.

“NAIG provides an incredible experience for anyone involved and brings together a lot of people from across Turtle Island.”

Team Saskatchewan Chef de Mission, Mike Tanton

Mike Tanton has volunteered as Chef de Mission for seven Games, prioritizing an atmosphere that combines the competition of sport with the celebration of Indigenous culture.

“The cultural portion of [NAIG] adds so much and makes it that much more meaningful,” shared Tanton.

“We see the kids when they come from their communities. We see them as they train leading up to the Games and at the Games – seeing their excitement – those are the things that keep me involved.”

Volunteers can take on various roles, anything from organizing travel to staying on location with athletes.

“We had volunteers that were up and at the airport at 4 a.m. to make sure the kids were able to get through security and to their flights. They stayed there all day to make sure every team was checked in correctly.

“[The volunteers]really worked on establishing a relationship with our partners that we were working with, like WestJet. We want them to look at our kids as theirs, because if they are doing that the kids will be in good hands.”

Tanton advocates the importance of establishing a family environment for the duration of NAIG. His dedication to creating a positive environment for the kids shines through each step of the preparation process.

“Volunteers are with the kids 24/7, for nine days straight. The family atmosphere lets people know that you care.”

Team Saskatchewan’s volunteers become family to each other and the athletes, prioritizing their well-being during training, up until they return home following the Games.

Tanton’s philosophy suggests that when things are done for family, it is being done in the best way possible.

NAIG is a unique event that gathers people from all areas. The volunteer team is a collection of individuals with various skills and prior experiences.

For 33 years, Team Saskatchewan has been built on a foundation of volunteers.

“Coaches, coordinators, chaperones, team managers, all of them are volunteers and are a part of the team right from the start,” explained Tanton.

Brenda Ahenakew and Eugene Arcand have volunteered their time since first founding the team in 1990. The two now share the guidance team role with Chief Larry Ahenakew and Lorna Arcand as overseers of the steering committee, coordinators, coaches and managers.

The guidance team is in place to bring forward generations of experience and knowledge regarding the Games, as well as guiding current volunteers through cultural protocol.

“NAIG provides an incredible experience for anyone involved and brings together a lot of people from across Turtle Island.”

Without the support of volunteers, NAIG would not be the event that it is today.

Charlie Biemans dedicates himself to his community

This volunteer recognition story and photo is courtesy of the Prairie Central District for Sport, Culture and Recreation 

Volunteers have the ability to adapt to the particular needs of an organization and situation. Charlie Biemans stands as an example of the diverse skills exhibited by Saskatchewan volunteers. 

For 43 years, Biemans has dedicated himself Englefeld’s community through numerous roles at the local school.  

In his free time, he has followed his passion for sport and coached youth in baseball, softball, volleyball, track, badminton, soccer, hockey and curling.  

Biemans continues to take the lead role in making the curling and skating ice for winter activities in the local arena. He manages the rink schedules, ice rentals, opening and closing, cleaning and maintenance, and ensuring the kitchen is fully stocked with supplies. 

He has an ability to create community, as Biemans has planned evenings at the local rink that feature burgers and free skating. 

Over the years, Charlie has spent time on the Englefeld Rec Board, village council and has supported the installation of new playground equipment at the park as well as renovations to the arena. 

“Englefeld is a better place because of the countless hours of volunteer time Charlie dedicates to the community. He is the driving force behind the Rec Board,” said fellow community member, Deanna Miskolczi. “As soon as one community event is over, Charlie is already talking about the next one!” 

In December 2023, Charlie was recognized with a Volunteer Recognition Award from the Prairie Central District for Sport, Culture and Recreation. Congratulations, Charlie! 

National Volunteer Week April 14-20

Saskatchewan’s 330,000 volunteers are a vital part of the foundation that makes up Saskatchewan’s sport, culture and recreation system. From April 14-20, celebrated under the theme of “Every Moment Matters,” volunteers will be recognized nationwide for their contributions. For 50 years, Sask Lotteries has funded volunteer led sport, culture and recreation programs in the province and it is through the contribution of volunteers that we can make a difference.

Sask Lotteries knows that every second a volunteer gives to the community, an innumerable number of individuals feel the impact. As part of the celebration, Sask Lotteries, along with Sask Sport is saying thank you to the volunteers in Saskatchewan, who help make the 12,000 lottery-funded sport, culture and recreation activities possible.

When thanking volunteers on social media, organizations are encouraged to use the hashtags: #NVW2024, #EveryMomentMatters.

For more information on the week and access to National Volunteer Week assets, check out SaskSport.ca

Q & A with Special Olympics Lloydminster 

Special Olympics Lloydminster, a Sask Lotteries funded organization, prioritizes the accessibility of sport in their local community. They have subsidized fees and will cover costs for athletes and their families who otherwise could not participate. The organization offers diverse programs, which allows every individual the opportunity to enjoy sport at their desired level. 

Marianne Witzaney, Volunteer Coordinator with Special Olympics Lloydminster, spoke with Sask Lotteries to provide more insight about Special Olympics Lloydminster through a Q & A.  

What opportunities are offered by your organization?  

Our organization offers Bowling and a Fitness/Walking Track Program. We are the only sport and fitness organization for individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate in. We have 85 registered athletes.  Not all our athletes can bowl so we started a Fitness/Walking track program.  

We have 60 enrolled in our bowling program and 25 in the Fitness/Walking track program.  

Our bowlers are invited to join us on the track every Thursday evening, with an average of 35 athletes per week participating in the Fitness/Walking track program. Both programs provide physical and social opportunities that are essential for the well-being and mental health of our participants. 

How has Sask Lotteries funding impacted Special Olympics Lloydminster? 

All our participants live on a fixed income, and many do not have family to help them out. Funding from Sask Lotteries subsidizes over half of their bowling fees and fitness/walking track fees. As a result, Special Olympics Lloydminster has been able to be all inclusive and provide a strong program. 

How have you seen participants benefit from Sask Lotteries funding?  

Because of Sask Lotteries funding we have been able to provide a strong bowling and fitness/walking track program and have been able to make it all inclusive. We still do have some individuals that cannot afford to pay any fees and through our own fundraising we can help these individuals out.   

With Sask Lotteries funding we are able to make the programs more competitive by providing small prizes and incentives for the athletes. 

Can you share a memory from your time with Special Olympics Lloydminster? 

In our Fitness/Walking track program, we have participants that walk, run & others who participate in wheelchairs. Every week we track the number of laps the participants do and encourage them to do more. One of our athletes is 80 years old and had a serious injury a few years ago and now requires a walker for support.   

She says she needs to walk 10 laps every week so she can get a ribbon again this year.  She is an inspiration to all of us. 

Saskatoon’s Shirley, Clark don Canadian jersey for first time together

Written by Matt Johnson for Sask Lotteries

After last serving as teammates in 2019 when the Wisconsin Badgers hoisted the NCAA National Championship, Emily Clark and Sophie Shirley shared the ice together as teammates for the first time in more than four years on Wednesday in Saskatoon.

On a night where female minor hockey teams from across the province lined the rows of seats in the arena, all eyes were on Clark and Shirley. As the final seconds ticked down, Canada head coach Troy Ryan had both Clark and Shirley on the ice together for the first time in the game. The pair of local products soaked in a 4-2 victory over the United States in Game 5 of the Rivalry Series.  

“It was a really cool moment for us,” said Shirley, who followed in the footsteps to Madison, Wisconsin of the older Clark and was a freshman when her role model completed her senior season.

Growing up, it was Clark who provided the foundation to the National Team and showed her that a route like this is possible through Saskatchewan. Both played U18 AAA hockey with the Saskatoon Stars, before moving west to attend the Okanagan Hockey Academy, which led to opportunities with Team Canada’s U18 team at respective U18 Women’s World Championships.

Along the way, each have benefitted from funding through Sask Lotteries that helps athletes achieve their dreams while on track to a national team or while on a national team. Shirley is a five-time recipient of Future Best and three-time recipient of a Saskatchewan Program for Athletic Excellence (SPAE), while Clark has received SPAE funding for the last five years.

Now after each spending four years in Wisconsin with the Badgers, Wednesday provided a reunion in their hometown — a city neither Shirley or Clark had played a competitive game in since their time with the Stars.

“I’m really proud of her. It’s kind of like a proud big sister moment. I got to watch her grow up and be on this journey together, so it was a really special day for both of us,” Clark said following the game, when asked about her former Badgers teammate.

“Emily has been a huge role model for me,” said Shirley. “I think I’ve always kind of looked up to her and tried to emulate everything that she’s done and kind of followed in her footsteps. It was super cool to share that with her for the first time at this level.”

Clark, who admitted she found out Shirley would be joining her on Canada’s roster when scrolling through X last week, was thrilled to have a fellow Prairie product along for the homecoming.

“I’m thinking of [Kristin O’Neill, who was replaced in the lineup due to injury], but it’s great that another Saskatoon player got this chance. Sophie has been playing amazing in the PWHL this season and she just keeps getting better and better,” said Clark.

A two-time finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, handed out to the top NCAA women’s hockey player, Shirley was selected by Boston 63rd overall by Boston in this fall’s PWHL Draft. She has three points in seven games this season for Boston, after scoring her first career PWHL goal this past week against Montreal.

“She’s such a special player with so much skill and speed. She’s still so young, so nothing but better things are coming for her,” said Clark.

The hope for Shirley is the call-up is a sign of what’s to come. She wrapped up her career at Wisconsin with a storybook ending, just like Clark did, by winning a National Championship in her senior season, before embarking on a pro career this fall.

All the time away from home made the night even more special, as with what she detailed as 15-20 family members in attendance, Shirley noted she was able to take it all in while taking laps in warmups.

“As soon as I got out there, I was super excited to be able to play with that atmosphere, especially when you’re home and having family here was amazing,” said Shirley. “I think for me, being a young girl and growing up in this area and being able to put myself in their shoes like I was at one point and now to be on the ice at this level is pretty cool.”

Clark reflected postgame on her own memories of attending Saskatoon Blades in the building and posted on Instagram earlier in the day with a nostalgic photo of her in a Saskatoon Flyers jersey — the team she noted she was last a part of when she last suited up at the SaskTel Centre.

The two-time Olympian and gold medallist in Beijing was slated to be a part of Canada’s roster when Saskatoon played host to the 4 Nations Cup but was forced to miss the tournament due to injury. She admitted following the game, that absence made Wednesday night all that sweeter.

“That [injury] probably was one of the hardest things I had to go through. I honestly didn’t think I’d get the chance [to play in Saskatoon again]. These series and different tournaments make their way across Canada, so I’m very lucky that I got the chance again and was healthy enough to play and be on the roster.”

The significance of the moment wasn’t lost on captain Marie Marie-Philip Poulin, who expressed her excitement to see both her longtime teammate in Clark and a fresh call-up in Shirley have a night like this in their hometown.

“It’s always special to travel across Canada, touching different communities and obviously, being here in Saskatoon in front of Clark and Shirley’s family — the whole crowd here was great,” said Poulin.

Sask Lotteries celebrates 50 years of support sport, culture and recreation

Sask Lotteries is celebrating 50 years as the main fundraiser for more than 12,000 sport, culture and recreation groups in communities across Saskatchewan.

Since 1974, lottery sales in Saskatchewan have been used to provide more than $1.4 billion to support athletes from the grassroots level to the international stage, connect youth to artistic experiences, help residents experience the beauty of the parks that cover the province and much more.  

The funding is made possible thanks to a long-standing agreement with the Government of Saskatchewan to direct proceeds from the sale of lottery products to sport, culture and recreation organizations.

“Sask Lotteries funding has touched every community across Saskatchewan during the last 50 years,” said Bill Kinash, Chair, Sask Sport and Sask Lotteries volunteer-led Board of Directors. “Almost everyone I speak to has seen their lives positively impacted by this fundraiser. We cannot wait to see what the next 50 years will bring.”

Throughout 2024, Sask Lotteries will celebrate its rich history in the province and share the stories of the beneficiaries of this fundraiser on its website and social media through winning numbers. Some of these winning numbers include celebrating the 196 Saskatchewan athletes who have attended the Olympic and Paralympic Games since 1976, multiple opportunities for cultural activities create over 1.6 million participants annually and the over 430 regional and community park spaces across the province. The 1,000 retailers across the province will also be celebrated for their part in the lottery sales that help generate the distributed funds.

Sask Lotteries has a humble beginning.  

To help fundraise against the rising costs of amateur sport, Sask Sport, a volunteer-led organization, wanted to run a lottery. To be granted the lottery licence by the Government of Saskatchewan, founding volunteers Cas Pielak and Joe Kanuka agreed to sign a promissory note to help start a lottery fundraising program. The first lottery in Saskatchewan was a success and eventually led to the Western Canada Lottery Corporation being established.  In 1974, it was determined that the funds would be placed into the Sask Lotteries Trust Fund and would be distributed to sport, culture and recreation groups as designated by the Government of Saskatchewan.

This arrangement remains, 50 years later.

29 Saskatchewan connections to Pan and ParaPan American Games

Over the past few months, 613 athletes have had their names be announced as part of Team Canada for the Santiago 2023 Pan and Parapan American Games. 

Occurring a year prior to the Olympic Summer Games, the Pan and Parapan Am Games occur every four years and are taking place for the first time since 2019, when it was held in Lima, Peru.

Each year, high performance athletes in Saskatchewan are supported through Sask Lotteries grants administered by Sask Sport.

Attending the Games with Saskatchewan connections are:  

Athletes 

  • Sydney Carroll, Artistic Swim 
  • Brendan Cote-Williamson, Athletics 
  • Fynn Fafard, Fencing 
  • Nik Goncin, Men’s Wheelchair Basketball 
  • Hunter Lee, Wrestling
  • Ashley Leugner, Wakeboard 
  • Wyatt Lightfoot, Para Badminton 
  • Tristian Moran, Archery 
  • Richard McBride, Shooting 
  • Blaire McDowell, Women’s Water Polo 
  • Brody McKnight, Men’s Water Polo 
  • Mitch McIntyre, Wheelchair Tennis 
  • Carissa Norsten, Women’s Rugby 7s 
  • Garrett Ostepchuk, Men’s Wheelchair Basketball 
  • Kenzie Priddell, Artistic Swim
  • Keely Shaw, Para Cycling 
  • Myriam Soliman, Para Swimming 
  • Tammara Thibeault, Boxing 
  • Blake Tierney, Swimming 
  • Nikole Todd, Squash 
  • Rylan Wiens, Diving 
  • Kelsey Wog, Swimming 

Coaches  

  • Lisa Borgerson – Shooting 
  • Frank Gaudet – Para Badminton 

Support Staff 

  • Al Bodnarchuk, Massage – Athletics 
  • Jan Hanson, Mission Staff, Media Attache – Racquet Ball 
  • Lisa Hoffart, Mission Staff, Mental Health Lead – Team Canada 
  • Graham Olson, Support Staff – Race Analysis 

Officials

  • Kristine Lovatt, Women’s Rugby 7s

For full coverage, results and further information, visit cscs-sask.ca   

I.D.E.A.s don’t have limitations

Inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility guides the I.D.E.A.s that lead the Saskatchewan amateur sport community and help build a better future for the province’s sport system.  

KidSport and Ringette Saskatchewan have done just that by creating a welcoming space for new Canadians and diverse language speakers by offering brochures and booklets in inclusive languages. 

Both organizations receive funding through Sask Lotteries.

Read full Sask Sport story

Mark Bracken retires after 38 years in sport and recreation

Mark Bracken has spent the past 38 years dedicating himself to Saskatchewan sport and recreation. After nearly four decades of commitment, Bracken has announced he will step into retirement as of March 31, 2024.  

In 1988, Bracken began what would be a long and successful career in sport and recreation. Working as the Zone 5 Sport Coordinator, he helped prepare teams for the 1988 Saskatchewan Summer Games in Melfort, the 1990 Saskatchewan Winter Games in Melville and the 1992 Saskatchewan Summer Games in Prince Albert. 

Bracken joined the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association after relocating to Regina in 1992 and spent six years as a Recreation Consultant. From 1998-2014 he joined Sask Sport and contributed to various roles within the organization. Over 17 years, he was involved with KidSport, sponsorship, sport funding, sport legacy funding and coaching development, before being named Executive Director of the Coaches Association of Saskatchewan in 2008.  

In 2014, the final step of his career brought him to the Saskatchewan Games Council as Executive Director, where he remained an integral member for ten years.  

Bracken’s passion for sport reaches beyond his career and led to his involvement with numerous volunteer opportunities. He attended 12 Canada Games where he served various times as Chef de Mission, Assistant Chef de Mission and mission staff. Since 1988, he has assisted in 10 Saskatchewan Games, attended the North American Indigenous Games and several editions of the Tony Cote Games.