Justin Warsylewicz named 2003 youth male athlete-of-the-year by Sask Sport

The best are honoured
The Leader-Post (Regina)
Byline: Murray McCormick

The 2003 Saskatchewan Sport Awards were more than a banquet honouring the province's best from 2003.

The gala dinner held at the Queensbury Centre on Thursday was a celebration of all the good things involved with Saskatchewan sport.

It was also evident last night that the successes wouldn't have taken place without the parents and volunteers who make up the massive support group behind the 18 athletes and teams nominated for the awards.

"It's easy to forget what a big role your parents play,'' said Regina's Justin Warsylewicz, a long track speed skater who was named the youth male athlete-of-the-year. "I know that all of the athletes and the coaches are aware what the parents do for them. They know that they wouldn't be where they are now if it wasn't for their parents.''

The Sask Sport awards were expanded this year to include the contributions made by the province's volunteers. In the past, volunteers were honoured in a separate function. Saskatoon's Glenn Kurmey (athletics), Regina's Leo Lane (rugby) and Melville's Bev Smith (figure skating) had their contributions to their individual sports and the sports community in Saskatchewan recognized.

The athletes also understand the importance of volunteers. The junior men's and women's curling teams from Saskatoon, which swept the Canadian and world titles, were named the team-of-the-year. Marliese Miller, Teejay Surik, Janelle Lemon and Regina product Chelsey Bell were on the women's team. The men's team consisted of Steve Laycock, Chris Haichert, Mike Jantzen and Kyler Broad.

Haichert singled out the efforts of volunteers and their roles as being a key reason for Saskatchewan's success on the international curling stage in 2003.

"You can't put on events like the worlds without volunteers,'' Haichert said. "There are thousands of volunteers who donate their whole days to putting on things that we're involved with.''

Saskatoon's Howard West, who recently turned 91, was selected the masters athlete-of-the-year. Simon Bairu, a distance runner from Regina, was picked the male athlete-of-the-year. Nicole Cargill, a synchronized swimmer from Regina, was named the female athlete-of-the-year. Jenni Hucul, a track competitor from Saskatoon, was named the youth female athlete-of-the-year.

Last night provided an opportunity to look back on some of the accomplishments of Saskatchewan's athletes. It also provided a glimpse of the future. Other than West, each of the award winners was under 20 years of age when they won their respective events.

"It's only going to get better for all of the athletes,'' said Warsylewicz, 18, who broke three Canadian junior records in 2003. "I know that I'm looking forward to the Winter Olympics in 2010 and some are looking forward to the 2008 Summer Olympics. Saskatchewan has a very bright future.''

West set 13 Canadian records and won a gold medal in the throws pentathlon and bronze in the javelin and 200 metres at the world masters track and field championships.

Bairu, who is a 20-year-old sophomore with the University of Wisconsin Badgers, won a second straight Canadian senior men's cross-country championship. Cargill, 18, earned a berth on Canada's 2004 Olympic team. Cargill is training with the national team in Toronto and wasn't able to make last night's banquet. Bairu also missed the banquet because of other commitments.

Hucul, 15, was the youngest award winner of the evening. She won the Canadian 100m junior women's championship.

"I was amazed at the talent of the youth in Saskatchewan,'' said Haichert, who was 20 when Saskatchewan won its curling championships. "They are younger than I am and they're world champions in their sport. It makes me feel good about Saskatchewan."

The present was also evident when Hayley Wickenheiser, the pride of Shaunavon, was the guest speaker. Wickenheiser talked of her experiences while winning the gold medal in women's hockey at the 2002 Winter Olympics and growing up in Saskatchewan. And the corporate support wasn't overlooked. SaskEnergy was presented with the President's citation, which recognizes outstanding contributions by a corporation to amateur sport in the province.