Take a walk down memory lane with U of O student-athletes as they recall the highlights of their athletic careers
Do you ever find yourself replaying your favourite memories in your head? Well, so do many of the University of Ottawa’s student-athletes.
Participating in sports has provided many of them with meaningful connections and cherished memories that’ll last a lifetime.
Yet this year with many sporting events being cancelled, postponed, or highly restricted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we couldn’t help but feel a bit nostalgic.
So we asked some Gee-Gees to share their most precious memories with us. Here are some of the moments they’ve picked out from their careers.
Milana Grahovac – Women’s volleyball
Amid the chaos of a game in her third-year, Milana Grahovac remembers one particularly intense, adrenaline-packed moment where her team only needed one more point to finish a set.
Grahovac was serving and former teammate Dana Bulloch, was the front row middle.
As soon as the opposing team received the serve, they set the ball to their middle who was gearing up to hit it right back at Grahovac.
“I knew that they would target me to hit it as I was not the defensive specialist our libero is,” said Grahovac, who is a middle blocker.
However, in that moment, with her team alongside her, Grahovac’s energy and determination was amplified.
“In my mind my only thought was ‘she is not going to score right now.’ And as I expected she hit [the ball] right at me and I somehow dug it up, Dana set it to our left side, and our left side scored to close the set!”
Now in her fourth-year, Grahovac once again finds herself motivated by her teammates during the pandemic.
“It wasn’t easy hearing that we couldn’t have any seasons games this year, but seeing how hard everyone was working to stay in top shape and make great strides in their development individually and as a group, motivated me to be my best self for them,” she said.
“I could still leave feeling proud of my four years.”
Borys Minger – Men’s basketball
Having always dreamed of playing basketball at a higher level, Borys Minger’s most memorable experience was getting recruited from French Guiana to play basketball in Canada at the age of 15.
A year prior, Minger missed out on a big opportunity to go play basketball in France, so coming to Canada gave him “a brand new and unexpected future to look forward to.”
Since then, he has had far more emotionally intense experiences, but this event remains the most memorable in his athletic career as it was so life changing.
“It was my most memorable because it’s with me everyday, it has become part of who I am,” he said.
This singular event propelled Minger to where he is today and has provided him with many opportunities for personal growth and development.
He recalls his first interaction with U of O alumni, Johnny Berhanemeskel and Calvin Epistola, stating “I met them both when I first came to the U of O in 2017, I was in the midst of transitioning from prep to university level.”
At the time, Minger was quite boastful.
“My original game plan was to come and let it be known that I was ambitious and ready to challenge anyone to get [to the top], but [Berhanemeskel and Epistola] led with so much humility while also being the best when it was game time,” Minger explained.
“I ended up finding it more fitting for me to just be humble and lead by example, instead of forcing and imposing myself where I went.”
Looking back, Minger admits this interaction not only made him a better player, but also a better teammate and leader.
Ketsia Kamba – Women’s rugby
In her first year, Ketsia Kamba played one of the “funnest and hardest” games of her life at the 2019 Réseau du Sport Étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) Women’s Rugby Championship.
With a successful high school career in basketball and rugby, Kamba was aware of the level of intensity and competition that she would face at the university level.
As a result, she gave 120 per cent at practices, scrimmages, lift sessions, and games.
“I had to give it my all whenever presented with the opportunity to showcase my athletic abilities.”
The biggest opportunity to do so presented itself as the championship game neared and the team’s starting lock was injured. This meant that Kamba, a substitute, would have to step up.
Yet despite her prior athletic achievements, Kamba still had her concerns.
“I wasn’t sure I would have the ability to play the full game because I’ve never played in such an elite level of rugby in my life.”
However, at that moment, Kamba was in her element.
“My first tackle is something I’ll never forget because it felt like I woke up from a dream,” she said.
Ultimately, she played the whole game and made a wonderful memory as the team emerged victorious.
Stephen Evans – Track and field
Winning gold in the 600m race at the 2019 U SPORTS Championships was the highlight of alumnus Stephan Evans’ athletic career.
The stakes were high as this was Evans’ senior year of school on in other words,“last chance to be a champion.”
In 2018, he had won two gold medals at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championships, in the 600m and 1000m events, so the following year, he was the one to beat and everyone was watching.
However, he did not win a medal in the 1000-meter event, which he admits took a toll, but it gave him the motivation to go harder the next day.
“After an unsuccessful night, I was able to bounce back and win gold [in the 600-meter race],” reminisced Evans. “I was proud of the emotional control I had to do that, it was a huge challenge to lose and then come back with a winning mentality.”
Moreover, the fact that Evans was able to triumph under immense pressure proved he had what it took to be a champion.
“Dealing with having a target on my back all season and into the finals was both a new experience and a good challenge,” said Evans. “It makes my memory of succeeding that much sweeter … I couldn’t have gone out in a better way.”