Eight Aylmerites named finalists at Athletic Excellence Outaouais Gala
Several local amateur athletes were recognized for their outstanding performances from the last year with nominations for prestigious prizes at the Excellence sportive Outaouais fourth annual award’s Gala. According to a press release issued by Excellence sportive Outaouais on June 30, this year’s event was held online because of the current circumstances. Going from July 2 to 6, the Gala was presented virtually via Facebook and YouTube videos posted at 7 pm unveiling the respective award winners.
The gala was initially supposed to take place at the Palais des Congrès in Gatineau on May 28 with before being cancelled. As the largest sports award’s ceremony in the region, this year’s Gala saw 47 finalists vying for more than a dozen bursaries and prizes worth a combined $27,000.
Aylmer was well represented this year with the following athletes nominated for awards:
-Emma Martins, track and field, winner of the female discovery athlete category;
-Frédérique Bell, track and field, finalist in the female provincial athlete category;
-Pierre-Alexandre Mcnicoll, track and field, winner of the male discovery athlete category;
-Loïc Cantin, judo, finalist in the male provincial athlete category;
-Yasser Riad, track and field, winner of the male provincial athlete category;
-Félix-Olivier Bertrand, judo, finalist in the male national athlete category;
-Xavier Piementel, swimming, winner of the male national athlete category;
-Tegan Shaver, gymnastics, winner of the female national athlete category;
The event’s organizing committee consists of Excellence sportive Outaouais, the city of Gatineau, the MRC de Papineau, the MRC Pontiac, Loisir sport Outaouais and the Pat Burns Foundation.
Martins, who ended up winning her category along with a $350 bursary, said her accomplishment was a very special moment in her athletic career. Seeing a significant chunk of her season cancelled due to coronavirus, Martins was grateful to at least be recognized for the hard work that contributed to her recent success. “By receiving this award, it was like a bright time in these dark places,” said Martins. She added that the award hard provided her with plenty of motivation to keep striving on the track despite not being able to race competitively for the time being.
Among other notable performances last year, Martins won the gold medal at 2019 provincial school track and field championship in Saguenay, Que. The 17 year-old sprinter recently graduated from D’Arcy McGee high school and will be attending Heritage College this fall. with intentions to continue racing competitively.
Determined on taking her sprinting to the next level over the next few years, Martins’ sights are set on landing an athletic scholarship.
“I’d like to run for a university hopefully,” said Martins. “I just really want to continue sprinting. I have no plans on quitting any time soon. I really enjoy it.”
For Riad, being nominated as the best male provincial athlete in the region was a humbling experience.
But when he saw his name unveiled as the winner, he felt even happier considering how much hard work he dedicated towards winning this award. He added that the recognition has fueled him to strive for even greater heights in the near future.
“This encourages me to continue surpassing myself and to go even further,” Riad said.
Having been invited to last year’s Gala where he won the award for male discovery athlete of the year, Riad admitted that not being able to attend an in-person ceremony put somewhat of a damper of the event’s atmosphere this time around. “I would’ve liked to do it like last year,” Riad said. “But when you don’t have a choice, you don’t have choice.” But all in all being recognized for another outstanding season was something to be proud of, Riad said.
Riad put forward a very successful 2019 summer with four provincial titles in the 800m and 1500m in the Juvenile category and also ended the year ranked number one in Quebec in both the 800m and the 1500m for people 17 and under.
The 17 year-old École secondaire de l’Île graduate is currently enrolled at the University of Ottawa. On the track, Riad said he aspires to eventually compete for national championships and become one of the best young runners in the nation, with the ultimate goal of representing Canada at the Olympic Games.
“Maybe not in 2024 in Paris,” Riad said. “But maybe in 2028, that would be something I would love to experience.”