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Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017
The next wave of Summer Games stories
2016-07-21
by Randy Pascal

The list of Sudbury and area boxers who have gone on to compete at high end provincial, national and international events is a long and storied one. True, the depth of the field is certainly not there as it once was, but it’s not as though the well is dry either.

Lance Chretien (18) and Brett Huard (15) will represent the Valley East Boxing Club in the upcoming Ontario Summer Games, taking place in Mississauga, and they will bring dramatically different backgrounds into the ring.

Chretien is already a very familiar name within local circles, with more than a dozen bouts to his credit since he first took up the sport some four years ago. He finds himself working harder than ever in preparation for an event that he deems “a little bigger than most other competitions”, looking to perfect his footwork in advance of the Games.

“If you ever watch Vasyl Lomachenko, the way he side steps, the way he sneaks around an opponent – it’s wicked,” said Chretien. “I really wanted to learn how to do that. Also my straight punches, extending my reach to the fullest.”

In terms of the field he will face in the 60-64 kg Male Youth Open class, Chretien does not get too concerned. “I would rather not know who I am going to be fighting,” he suggested. “We focus on our skill set, refining our skills, as opposed to studying an opponent before each fight.”

The strategy provides Chretien with a very clear-cut idea with regards to the keys to his success. “I throw very hard body shots, and longer straight punches – I’m fairly good at that.” Spending his summer working in the construction field can take a toll on the Valley East native, though he has found at least a partial answer, via a somewhat surprising practice.

“I actually meditate a lot,” he acknowledged. “If you’re sore, take a day off, so that you can rejuvenate for the next workout.” In the gym typically five days a week, rest is critical for Chretien, as he looks to return with a medal.

His younger teammate might be understandably somewhat more reserved in terms of his OSG aspirations. Huard will enter the ring with only a single bout of experience under his belt. A naturally aggressive athlete who led his league in penalty minutes last season as a member of the Nickel City Bantam “AA” Jr Sons, Huard kind of stumbled into boxing while relaxing in front of the television.

“I started watching “Rocky” movies, and that got me interested,” he said with a smile. “The idea of training hard, I just wanted to try it. It was different, harder than I expected. I had to learn more defense, and how to throw proper punches.”

Even with months of training, Huard committed the cardinal sin of countless newcomers to the ring, looking to brawl right out of the gate. “I have to remember not to throw all my punches at once,” he said. “I threw too many early.”

The patience that is required forms an integral part of a balanced approach, for Huard and countless other young fighters. “When you’re on offense, you know what speed you are going at,” he said. “On defense, you never know what speed you are going to see.”

“When you throw your punches, you need to make sure they are proper, straight, in a way that the other guy can’t hit you at the same time.” Both Chretien and Huard will be part of the field of some one hundred or so young boxers from across the province who will gather at the Hershey Centre in August.

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At the time of our first Ontario Summer Games preview back in June, a handful of local athletes slipped through the cracks. Some are simply with teams that were not yet finalized – the rosters for both the boys and girls basketball were still to be determined – while others were tricky to find.

The Region 2 boys volleyball team is absolutely over-loaded with North Bay talent, which makes sense given that the Gateway City is home to an established club team at that particular age bracket. Lively native Matthew Merrylees, who suited up with the fledgling Greater Sudbury Volleyball Club last season, was duly noted.

Not so much the case for 14 year old grade 8 talent Bradley Bertrand, one of eight underagers named to the Summer Games team. Competing with his elementary team at Macdonald-Cartier, and preparing to play with the Sacré-Coeur Griffons in September, Bertrand was selected largely on a combination of raw athleticism, outstanding work ethic and willingness to learn.

By his own admission, he is playing catch-up to the crew from North Bay. “I am learning a lot,” he said. “Everything is new, I’m learning something new every practice.” That said, his love of the sport is easy to understand.

His father competed in the Ontario Summer Games, at roughly the same age, while an on-going family summertime tradition involves regular beach volleyball tournaments out at the Bertrands’ camp in Lavigne.

To suggest he attended tryouts with limited expectations would be an understatement. “I was really surprised when I got the news that I made the team,” he said. “I think it’s my attitude. I tried my best to step up.”

That positive attitude has carried right into the training sessions, as Bertrand becomes increasingly acclimatized to the level of volleyball he will be facing, often through workouts with his more experienced teammates. “They have a lot of vocabulary that I don’t know yet, so I watch them do it, and ask questions from there.”

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While it is unusual for hockey to be included in the Summer Games, such is the case in Mississauga, as the OWHA (Ontario Women’s Hockey Association) opted to avoid the mid-season disruption that would be caused in trying to assemble teams for a March competition.

Sudbury will be well represented, as per usual, as Madison Laberge, Madisyn Papineau, Lauren Hancock, Makayla Gratton and Riley Maanselka all head off to compete at the Iceland Arena in a few weeks time.

International competitor Emilie Charette will surely be among the favourites when she takes part in the kickboxing battles that are being hosted at the Hershey Centre as well. Taekwondo, meanwhile, is being staged at the Erin Meadows Community Centre, with Falconbridge Taekwondo competitors Tamara Bouchard (12) and Noah Martin (15) carrying local hopes.

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