Three speed skaters announced as finalists for Manitoba's Athletes of the Year awards




The Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association has announced the finalists for the selection of Manitoba's Athletes of the Year and Team of the Year for 2003.

Three former winners have been nominated in the male athlete category, two-time recipient CORIE KOSKIE of baseball's Minnesota Twins (1999 and 2001), Sovereign Award winning jockey TODD KABEL (1995), and Toronto Maple Leaf goaltender ED BELFOUR (1991).

Joining them on the final ballot are GARTH COLLINGS, Manitoba's amateur golfer of the year, and Iles des Chenes goaltender and Team Canada softball star ROB GIESBRECHT.

The finalist slate for female athlete also includes three former winners. The overall world speed skating champion, CINDY KLASSEN (2002), her speed skating-cycling compatriot CLARA HUGHES (1996), and hockey's NCAA player of the year JENNIFER BOTTERILL (2001) will be considered for a second time distinction.

They will be opposed in the deciding vote of the Manitoba media by softball star HEATHER NEWSHAM, who was named this year's outstanding player in fastpitch in the province, and SHANNON REMPEL, the overall world junior speed skating champion.

Four national champions and a runner-up have been nominated for Team of the Year, and the Maurice Smith Memorial trophy. The MANITOBA BISON MEN'S VOLLEYBALL team won its third Canadian university title in the last four years, SMITTY'S captured the Canadian Senior women's fastpitch crown for a third straight season, ILES DES CHENES NORTH STARS won the Allan Cup, symbolic of the Canadian Senior AAA hockey championship, and the WINNIPEG THUNDER captured a third consecutive Canadian Wheelchair basketball title. Also a finalist is the WINNIPEG WESMEN WOMEN'S BASKETBALL team, the runner-up to Victoria for the Canadian university championship.

After the final vote, the winners will be declared at the annual Athletes of the Year awards dinner on Sunday, January 18th, 2004, at the Delta Winnipeg. Ticket information is available through dinner chairman Ken Kobelka, phone 253-2341.





JENNIFER BOTTERILL -- won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the NCAA female hockey player of the year. She became the most prolific scorer in American college hockey history with 156 goals and 181 assists. Led the NCAA in scoring in 2002-03 with 111 points as Harvard was the runner-up in the national championship. She also sparked Canada to a silver medal in the Four Nations Cup tournament, assisting on her team's only goal in a 2-1 shootout loss to the United States in the gold medal game.

CLARA HUGHES -- silver medallist in the 5,000 metres at the world single distance speed skating championships, and finished second overall in the World Cup 3,000-5,000-metre standings. She also was the Canadian All-around speed skating champion. In cycling, she won gold in the points race, silver in the individual road racing time trial, and bronze in the three-kilometre individual pursuit at the Pan Am Games.

CINDY KLASSEN -- was the first Canadian in 27 years to win the overall women's speed skating championship in 2003. She was the 1,500-metre World Cup champion, silver medallist in the world sprint championship, bronze medallist at 1,000 metres in the world single distance speed skating championships, and was named Canada's female long track speed skater of the year.

HEATHER NEWSHAM -- was selected as Softball Manitoba's outstanding senior women's fastpitch player and received the Elaine Jones Award. She was the leading batter (.583) and top pitcher (5-0 in the round robin) at the Canadian Senior women's fastpitch championship. She had seven doubles and a home run in pacing Smitty's to its third straight national crown.

SHANNON REMPEL -- matched Klassen's performance in the junior division, become the first Canadian in 27 years to win the overall junior women's speed skating championship in 2003. She was second in the Canadian senior sprint championships, 14th in the world sprint championships, 11th at 1,000 metres and 14th in the 500 in the world single distance championships, and posted three top-16 finishes on the World Cup circuit.



ED BELFOUR -- finalist for the Vezina trophy as the NHL's top goaltender, set a Toronto team record with 37 wins in 2002-03 (third in the league), had seven shutouts (fifth), a 2.26 goals against average (10th), and a .922 save percentage (fifth). On Nov.24, 2003, he moved past Glenn Hall into fifth place in career NHL victories with 408.

GARTH COLLINGS -- selected as the Labatt Manitoba Amateur Golfer of the Year in 2003 after winning two national titles, the Canadian Club Champions crown and the Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship, qualified on Manitoba's Willingdon Cup interprovincial team for a tenth time, won the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Mid-Amateur titles, and the Grey Owl tourney for a fourth time.

ROB GIESBRECHT -- goaltender for the Allan Cup-winning Iles des Chenes North Stars, stopping 46 shots in a 3-2 double overtime victory over Stony Plain Eagles in the Canadian Senior AAA Hockey Championship final. He also was one of Canada's leading hitters in winning a seventh straight gold medal in softball at the Pan Am Games. He homered, doubled, and scored the winning run as Canada beat the United States 4-2 in the final. He was honored with Softball Manitoba's President's Choice Award.

TODD KABEL -- won his third Sovereign award as the outstanding jockey in Canada. He became the first Canadian jockey ever with mounts that produced over $10 million in horse racing earnings, and led the riders at Toronto Woodbine this season with 149 victories. He rode 29 stakes winners, including Sovereign nominees Mobil, Forever Grand, Soaring Free, Irish Glora, Strut the Stage, and Wando.

COREY KOSKIE -- batted .292 with 76 runs, 29 doubles, 14 homers, and 69 RBI in 131 games to boost Minnesota to the American League Central Division title. His .973 field percentage was second in the league for third basemen, and his nine errors were the second fewest. He was the Twins' nominee for baseball's Roberto Clemente award for community service.



ILES DES CHENES NORTH STARS -- defeated Stony Plain Eagles 3-2 in double overtime in the national final, winning the Allan Cup as Canadian Senior AAA hockey champions, the first Manitoba team to win the Allan Cup since the 1964 Winnipeg Maroons.

WINNIPEG THUNDER -- led by tournament Most Valuable Player Joey Johnson and all-star Travis Gaertner, the Thunder defeated Twin City Spinners from Kitchener-Waterloo 71-57 in the national final, winning their third straight Canadian Wheelchair basketball championship.

SMITTY'S -- defeated Brampton 5-0 in the final in winning their third consecutive Canadian Senior women's fastball title and the team's seventh in the last nine years. Smitty's were led once again by the one-two punch of the Newsham sisters; Sandy pitched the shutout victory and hit a three-run homer in the final, and Heather's hitting and pitching sparked the team in the round robin.

MANITOBA BISONS MEN'S VOLLEYBALL TEAM -- led by CIS tournament Most Valuable Player Mike Munday, the Bisons rolled to their third national university volleyball title in the last four years and their tenth overall championship under coach Garth Pischke, beating Alberta 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-21) with a sparkling final match performance.

WINNIPEG WESMEN WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM -- after an impressive start to the season, the Wesmen had to bounce back from a mid-season slump to reach the Canada West final in order to qualify for the national tournament. Led by first team all-Canadian and tournament all-star JoAnne Wells, the Wesmen upset McMaster and Simon Fraser before losing 60-51 to Victoria in the CIS women's final.


FOR MORE INFORMATION-- Bob Picken, phone 489-8642

E-mail --