Vancouver, BC- Online and streamed nationally, the U SPORTS Lieutenant governors awards were handed out on CBC Sports.
The awards, usually held in person, were forced online due to the novel coronavirus and health restrictions in the Province of Alberta, however, that doesn’t mean that the show was lacklustre. Alberta Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell read out the winners, while notable U SPORTS alumni such as Hayley Wickenheiser and Donavan Bennet virtually sent their messages to the honoured athletes.
Men’s Athlete of the Year: Aboubacar Sissoko (Soccer, Montreal)
University of Montreal soccer player Aboubacar Sissoko won the men’s award, but the decision was far from simple. The nominees included Taran Kozun, who won the Canada West Athlete of the Year and was named to various hockey All-Star teams, Keevan Veinot who helped the Dalhousie Tigers to the U SPORTS national championship final, and skilled OUA hockey player David Thomson.
Sissoko wins the award after five years with the Montreal Carabins, in which he established himself as one of the premier strikers in Canadian soccer. He helped the Carabins win the national title in Vancouver in 2018, and was on the host team that came second in 2019.
The past year has been a whirlwind for Sissoko, not only did he torment defenders with his size and astute spacial awareness on the U SPORTS pitch, but he earned himself looks at higher levels of the game. His strong play earned him a pre-season trial with the MLS’s Vancouver Whitecaps, before ending up with the Canadian Premier League’s HFX Wanderers ahead of the 2020 CanPL season. He’s yet to make his pro debut in Halifax, but whenever the league is back to play, he’ll slot right into a lineup that struggled to score in 2019.
Kelsey Wog, a swimmer from the University of Manitoba took home Athlete of the Year honours for the women, topping off a stellar year in which she earned U SPORTS Swimming honours as well. By the time her university career ends, she will go down as one of the best athletes ever to grace Bisons athletics, and with her latest accolade, she could be already considered so.
Women’s Athlete of the Year: Kesley Wog (Swimming, Manitoba)
Wog has been dominant in the pool over her entire U SPORTS career and had her most successful year yet in 2019-20, winning four national gold medals in various lengths of breaststroke. Not only has she been dominant against U SPORTS competition, but she stacks up against the world’s best, with her time of 2:22.42 in the 200m breast being the fastest time in the world in 2020.
The Manitoban won a silver medal at the 106 FINA World Swimming Championships, and also competed at the 2017 FISU Summer Universiade, but she has her sights set on a much larger international event: The Olympic Games.
While 2020 may have been a stretch to qualify, the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics until 2021 could work in Wog’s favour. She could have been a fringe qualifier this year, but with the trials not taking place and 2021 qualification up for grabs, there’s a good chance the 2020 U SPORTS Athlete of the Year will be in the Tokyo Olympic pool.
To win the award, Wog superseded Laval Rugby’s Fabiola Forteza, Toronto runner Lucia Stafford, and UPEI basketball’s Janna May Elsworth. Wog’s international accolades and potential factors that helped her case, but the four national titles put her over the top.
Although the Olympics and World Championships are the undoubted pinnacles of the sport, Wog has also signed on to compete with the Toronto Titans of the International Swim League and will be a part of the brand new expansion team.
The 2020 U SPORTS Lieutenant Governors Awards may not have had the pomp and circumstance as they would in a regular year, but that is a sentiment shared by everything in an unprecedented time in modern life.