LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK – Sitting on the shores of Mirror Lake, the cauldron that shined for 11 days dimmed for a final time on Sunday as the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games came to a close.
The first FISU World University Games since the pandemic acted as a unifying sliver of life in a world that continuously feels more separated. At the closing ceremony, the Canadian delegation celebrated alongside the other 45 nations represented, with the likes of Ukraine, competing amid a war, and Haiti, represented for the first time at the FISU Winter Games.
It may not be the size of the Olympic Games. Still, Lake Placid welcomed the world for the first time in 43 years, locals offering their quaint village to over 1,400 athletes to call home as they competed on slopes, rinks and pebbled ice throughout the Adirondack region.
In many ways, the FISU Games brought the world together while revitalizing the legendary walks of Lake Placid’s Olympic legacy, written through the legend of 1932 and 1980.
“There can be no doubt: Lake Placid is the place of legends for winter sports. We are reminded of this, just walking into this building and seeing the reminders of the ‘Miracle on Ice.’ We knew this was and is a very special place. And we had the privilege to be part of it,” said FISU acting president Leonz Eder.
“Here, in winter, Lake Placid has brought unprecedented warmth to our Games. In a complicated world, full of conflict, this wonderful community has offered us an open heart. Let us not underestimate how lucky we are to have been able to enjoy these 11 days of joyous and peaceful celebration in sport.”
For Canada, it was historic. 13 medals, third in the medal standings and the second most ever, only behind Belluno 1985, and two-three medal performances from the likes of David La Rue in speed skating and Shilo Rousseau in biathlon.
Indeed, Rousseau, with her two gold medals, led Canada’s delegation at Herb Brooks Arena for one final time after Native-American groups closed the Games, and the Lake Placid mayor Art Devlin handed off the FISU flag to the organizers of the Torino 2025 FISU Games.
For the first time since 2013, Canada ended the Games with double-hockey gold, as the women defeated Japan 5-0 in the gold medal game, and the men, just minutes before the closing ceremony, downed the United States 7-2 in front of a sold-out crowd at Herb Brooks Arena.
While winning gold against the Americans at the nation’s house of hockey and home of “Miracle on Ice” may be the shining light of these Games, they were unifying in every way for Canadian universities and high-performance sports.
Rousseau got the Games started making Canadian history with Canada’s first-ever medal in biathlon before adding another two for good measure. At the same time, La Rue earned himself a place on Speed Skating Canada’s World Cup team with his three-medal performance. Outside of the two hockey golds, Rousseau had two, La Rue had one, while Laura Hall also skated to gold in the women’s 3000m
Yet even though the Games featured medal performances in biathlon, hockey, speed skating and ski cross, it wasn’t for lack of heartbreak.
There was the Canadian short track speed skaters coming up empty despite medal hopes, golden hopeful Kiersten Vincett having to pull out of ski cross before racing in the final due to injury, or the Canadian long track team pursuit squad crashing with a golden lead of more than five seconds.
On those same nights, however, the Canadian men won bronze in team pursuit, and Elizbaeth Filitrault captured her first inertnational medal, bronze in ski cross, after struggling with confidence in her skiing.
Canada’s moments and the Games’ story spread across the region, from a party on the speed skating oval to magic on the ice and Owen Purcell’s miracle shot to win men’s curling bronze.
As the Games ended, and the lights at Herb Brooks dimmed for the final time under FISU’s guise, there was one message of true unity, with university and global sport back.
With the flag officially transferred to the Games’ next Italian hosts and the athletes looking forward to future competitions, the celebrations flooded out onto the street and into the night, the Games in the rearview, and international university sport back with a thunderous return.