Two Cochrane athletes contributed to Alberta's impressive medal haul in the first week of competition at the 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara, Ont.
Seventeen-year-old wrestler Nicholas Hooper won gold in his individual weight category and bronze in the team wrestling competition, while 15-year-old Simon Baker was a member of the Team Alberta squad that earned silver in the men's baseball tournament.
As he has demonstrated throughout his wrestling career, Hooper was a force to be reckoned with in the ring. The Cochrane Cowboys wrestler stormed his way to gold in the men's up-to-70-kilogram (kg) weight class, earning a 3-1 victory in the gold-medal match over Yann Heymung of Quebec in the championship match on Aug. 11.
The St. Timothy's student-athlete called the gold medal one of the highlights of his wrestling career to date.
"I've never won anything like that before," Hooper said. I honestly didn't feel much of anything until I was with my coach after the match in the warm-up area, talking about it and realizing I'd actually just achieved one of my goals. That feeling is something I can't really describe, but it's wonderful."
According to Hooper, he had previously lost to Heymung earlier in the games, so knew what he was heading up against before the final. While he didn't get off to the best of starts in the gold-medal bout, he said his game plan started coming together in the later stages of the match.
"What my coach loves to emphasize for me is to visualize," Hooper said I" had a game plan I'd gone through 100 times in my head between the first and second matches. That was to be patient, keep my lead leg ahead and put pressure to break this guy. I remember executing it pretty well, besides at the beginning of the match. At the end of the games, the jets were on and I was executing my plan to a tee."
Hooper was also a member of the Team Alberta squad that finished on the podium by defeating Quebec 37-15 in the bronze-medal match the day prior to his gold-medal bout.
"I felt we had an amazing showing," he said. "Our group mentality was better than any of the other teams, I feel. We worked really well together and it was a great showing from Alberta."
Former Cochrane Cowboys wrestler Annika Fines also grappled her way to gold for Team Alberta, in the women's 48-kg weight class.
Baker earns second
Meanwhile on the baseball diamond, Baker contributed to Team Alberta's silver-medal finish in men's baseball, playing in all seven of the team's games. The Albertans overcame teams from the East Coast and Quebec while losing to Manitoba in the round robin. They rebounded from the Manitoba defeat by shutting out British Columbia 4-0 in the semi-finals to book a berth in the final.
But the unbeaten run came to an end against a powerful Team Ontario in the gold-medal game, as the Ontarians won 15-4 on Aug. 10 to claim the championship. The loss meant Alberta ultimately finished with a 5-2 record.
As of press time, Team Alberta was third in the medal standings behind Ontario and British Columbia. After eight days of competition, Alberta had amassed 70 podium placements, including 19 gold, 33 silver, and 18 bronze medals.
Other local athletes competing in Niagara this month include road cyclist Kaden Colling and lacrosse player Wyatt Viste of Bearspaw. The men's lacrosse tournament and road cycling races were both set to start Aug. 16 (after press time).