'Success stories at every level': Sask. athletes shine on international stage in 2022

Saskatoon's Emily Clark, seen above in 2021, scored the winning goal as the national team defeated the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association all-stars 3-2 in an exhibition on Thursday. (Chris Szagola/The Associated Press - image credit)
Saskatoon's Emily Clark, seen above in 2021, scored the winning goal as the national team defeated the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association all-stars 3-2 in an exhibition on Thursday. (Chris Szagola/The Associated Press - image credit)

The hockey world is buzzing over the record-setting exploits of Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard at the recent World Junior Hockey Championships, but he's not the only athlete putting Saskatchewan on the map.

It's been a banner year for other hockey players, as well as fencers, cyclists and basketball players.

"It's been a pretty amazing time for Saskatchewan athletes," said Regina's Kia Schollar, who competed internationally in canoe and kayak and is now manager of athlete services for Sask Sport.

"We don't have to look too far to find success stories at every level."

Here's a look back at some of the Saskatchewan sports highlights of 2022.

Hockey hardware

The men's World Junior Hockey Championships technically started in 2022, and ended a few days ago with a gold medal for Canada.

Regina Pats star Connor Bedard broke several records, and scored the goal of the tournament when he deked through three other skaters and the goalie to score the overtime winner in the quarter finals against Slovakia.

Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press
Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

The 17-year-old Bedard is technically from Vancouver, but this is his third year in Saskatchewan playing for the Pats.

Saskatoon goalie Darcy Kuemper was also a key member of the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche. He brought the Cup back to Saskatoon this summer.

Another Saskatoon hockey star also brought home some hardware. Back in February, Emily Clark helped Canada capture the Olympic gold medal in a dramatic 3-2 victory over the U.S.

@HockeyCanada/Twitter
@HockeyCanada/Twitter

When she arrived home, dozens of fans showed up to welcome her at the airport, waving signs and cheering.

Hoops and heroines

Clark wasn't the only female athlete that had global success in the last year.

Humboldt's Paige Crozon and her team took the silver medal in three-on-three basketball world championships in Belgium over the summer.

Tom Goyvaerts/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images
Tom Goyvaerts/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images

She spoke to CBC shortly after that winning performance about her personal journey to success.

"I am a single mom and work full time and I still want to be part of basketball, because I love it … It has just been huge for myself and my entire family."

Crozon and her team later took gold in November at the America's championship in Miami as well.

Hurdles, cycling, fencing and more

At the World Track and Field Championships in Oregon, Saskatoon's Michelle Harrison made the semifinals of the 100m hurdles.

And in football, 17 Of the 45 women selected to play for Team Canada at the world football championship in Finland were from Saskatchewan. Many of them still play their club football for either the Regina Riot or Saskatoon Valkyries.

And then there's cyclist Keely Shaw of Midale, Sask. Back in 2021, she captured Canada's first medal at the Tokyo Paralympics. She followed that up last year with two medals at the road cycling world championships.

Another standout result for Paralympians came from Ryan Rousell of Asquith, Sask.

Rousell flew to the wheelchair fencing world championships in Brazil and captured gold in both the sabre and the epee competitions.

Provided by Ryan Rousell
Provided by Ryan Rousell

Many of these athletes got their start in the provincial youth system.

Last year, Sask Sport gave out $1M to athletes and coaches to help them develop.

But Kia Schollar said it's about more than money. Saskatchewan's community spirit shows in the thousands of volunteer coaches and officials in every small town, First Nation and city, she said.

"I think that, you know, Saskatchewan has the ability to create resilient people, people who are able to understand their greatness and what their strengths are and and really lean into them," she said.

"And some of those athletes who get their start here do come back home in the off-season and give back, and they foster that same attitude and motivation into the next generation of athletes, which I think encourages a legacy of performance."

She said Saskatchewan athletes are still thriving in traditional sports like hockey and football, but last year showed they can also succeed on the ice, in the pool or on the track — and she expects more names will be added to this list in 2023.