Malletball

Yesterday afternoon in the park, we helped celebrate our friend Thomas’s birthday with a potluck and games. I played some chess, had my hand injured in a slack-line tightening incident (I’m fine), didn’t come in dead last at croquet, and ate some of the best devilled eggs and broccoli salad I’ve ever had. By all accounts, it was already a great afternoon, but then something amazing happened.

Thomas pulled out a volleyball and together with five others of us armed with croquet mallets, we spontaneously created the new lawn game and soon to be sensation, “Malletball”.

It was amazing how simple and yet complex the game was from the start. We cordoned off a small section of the park, using croquet gates to mark goal posts. We felt that it would be too difficult to score if one could just block with his body, but what would be the punishment if you did block? I came up with the idea that it should be a point for the other team if the ball touches you and Thomas added then that it would be five points for a goal. So quick; so perfect.

Probably the most amazing part was that despite swinging mallets at each other nobody got hurt. As long as Matthew’s smashed thumb doesn’t count as somebody. There were a few near misses. One time I raised my mallet up over my head to stop a flying ball, the end of the mallet unscrewed and came tumbling down nearly grazing my head… resulting in the birth of the no high-sticking rule.

Some other interesting developments, Thomas invented a way to juggle the ball in the air, I created a fairly inspiring “behind the back” maneuver, not to mention the ways we learned to flip the ball up to a teammate to try and hit it at an unsuspecting opponent. (Though it is easier said than done).

The teams were very even. We decided to finish at 100 points, and the final tally was 100 – 94. I can’t wait to try it again, perhaps with hockey nets next time.

Malletball

Swimmers Go for Olympic Dreams at Canadian 2012 Trials

My friend and former roommate Richard Hortness is heading off to Montreal for the Olympic trials. He’s no longer living in Lethbridge but we wish him well. The Lethbridge club team has quite a few former swimmers also going to the meet, some of whom I’ve helped coach and/or shared the pool with. Here’s the news release from lethbridgeswimming.com:

Every four years, the Olympic Games stop the world. For a moment in time, the population across the globe, share in athletic glories, defeats, and Olympic stories. For 12 Lethbridge Swimmers, the dream of becoming an Olympian will be put to test in reality show called the Canadian Olympic 2012 Swimming Trials. The Trials will take place next week in Montreal, at the historic 1976 Montreal Olympic Pool. The pool is situated in Olympic Stadium, originally built for the 1976 Olympics and formerly home of the Montreal Expos.

For the Lethbridge contingent, the road to the Olympic Games began a decade ago. From initially jumping in the pool to learn four basic strokes fly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle, each athlete has worked to improve strength, endurance, speed, has refined stroke technique, has learned how to apply sport psychology, learned how to balance social and academics with athletics, and has paced up and down the pool several million kms. These athletes have raced on the national and international levels and have participated in training camps around the world, just to gain experience for this moment.

Through the process of diligent training, day to day, month to month, year to year these athletes have put themselves into contention. Competing at the Olympic Trials is comparable to making the NHL playoffs.

“The time is now,” says Head Coach Brad Mori. We have 12 qualified to compete at the Trials; Ryan Thornley, Kyle Troskot, Leah Troskot, Jeffrey Nicol, Rachel Nicol, Jessica Kelly, Kristy Gabruck, Mat Loyola, Matthew Mastromatteo, Tiha Konyves, David Errington, and Zack McAllister.

This is the largest contingent to ever represent Lethbridge at the Canadian Olympic Trials. “I think we are doing a good job of keeping kids engaged in the sport long enough for them to mature physically and mentally, they are able to realize their potential, and go about their day to day business more professionally. Swimmers are now hitting their prime in their mid to late twenties. Generally, the days of sending teenagers, with hormones and inconsistencies, to the Olympics Games is done. We are sending intelligent men and women, with a full set of tools.”

For Kyle Troskot, Zack McAllister, Jeffrey Nicol, and Rachel Nicol they will go into the meet with having experienced the Canadian Olympic Trials in 2008. “This is a different meet with different pressures than most competitions. For many swimmers their dream and career goal is on the line.” “It was the most exciting competition of my career” says Mori, who was a 1996 Olympic Trials Finalist and also competed at the 2000 Trials. “Having been in this moment 4 years ago, with the press and the hype, these kids will have the advantage of experience.”

Our top contenders will be Kyle Troskot, Rachel Nicol, and Zack McAllister. Both Kyle and Rachel are away at university this year, Kyle is at Texas A&M (2nd year) and Rachel as at Southern Methodist University (1st year). Zack is in his first year at University of Lethbridge and training with the Pronghorns. Both Kyle and Rachel will be fresh of performances at the NCAA championship. The fastest meet in the world should also provide added experience for the Olympic Trials next week. McAllister has had a great season, having competed at the Pan American Games in Mexico this past fall.

Pronghorns, Ryan Thornley, Jeffrey Nicol, and Jessica Kelly will be looking to crack the top 8 “A final”. “If you have a lane, you have a chance. Anything can happen. Every 4 years you see kids come out of the wood works, you see veterans come out of retirement for one last chance to make the team.”

To make the Canadian Team, swimmers must win or place second in the event and swim a time faster than the FINA “A” two per country time standard. Rachel Nicol has posted this standard previously, Kyle is itching closer. Zack will be competing for a spot on the Paralympic Team. “Unfortunately for Zack, we are still waiting on a classification appeal, and might not know if he has qualified until after the ruling has been made.”

The meet will run from March 27th to April 1st. Rogers Sportsnet will be covering the action live nightly from 7-8:00 pm Eastern time.

Update: Richard made the team! He’ll be competing for Canada in the 4×100 relay. As for the Lethbridge swimmers, there was a total of 39 personal best times with four swimmers making it into the finals—three placed in top eight.

Pinch’o’Crow Rendezvous 2011

Kayaking
Photo by Janson Smith

I went to Castle River Rodeo Campground again this year with my good friend Andy for the long weekend kayaking festival. This was my 6th year participating in the event and once again it was a really good time.

Kayaking
Photo by Janson Smith

Organizer, Chuck Lee, and his crew of volunteers put on a great event each year with all sorts of river runs and clinics available for paddlers of all levels. Andy and I hit up the “Upper-Upper Old Man” and also the section known as “The Gap”. We also ran the Castle River Falls and the Castle Canyon run. Here’s a video from near the headwaters of the Old Man River shot on the GoPro HD Hero 960 that I was given for Christmas. (Which I love by the way).

Near Castle River Head Water

Each year they have a boat stacking competition — we were eliminated in the semi-finals — which is too bad because the winning team each got a brand new helmet. Here we are in a round where we did NOT get eliminated.

kayaking stacking competition
Photo by Janson Smith

This year I helped start a new tradition that they’re now calling H2O Limbo. Just Liquid Sports provided the prizes in three contests — one for men, women, and kids and I came in second in the mens which earned me a new pair of neoprene gloves! (Thanks Rob) The guy who beat me must have been about 65 years old and could limbo better than just about any guy I’ve ever seen.

kayaking
Photo by Janson Smith

Some dude ran Lundbreck Falls again this year — I did not. Luckily there were no injuries at the falls. Here’s the photo I snapped:

Lundbreck Falls Run
Photo by Jeff Milner

And the video from my iPhone (thanks Andy):

Lundbreck Falls 2011

There is a photo of me running the same falls in 2008.

Lethbridge Ultimate Club in the News

The Lethbridge Ultimate Club was in the news last week getting a little promotion for the idea of a full league here in town. It seems like a good idea and we’ve been getting a lot more people out to play. If you’re looking for a nice easy going sport in Lethbridge, come over to Gyro Park on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 6pm.

Frisbee Lovers Toss Around League Idea.

Three River Rendezvous 2010

Over the long weekend my friend, Andy, and I went to the Castle River Rodeo Grounds to take part in the biggest whitewater festival in Canada, the Three River Rendezvous. My decision to go wavered when I read that the weather forecast predicted cool temperatures, variable cloudiness, and sprinkled showers. Luckily we pressed on and, as it turns out, the weather wasn’t actually that bad, and for most of the time, it was actually sunny — I even got a little burned on my face.

Unfortunately tragedy struck on Sunday night. After we had returned from our trip running the Five-Alive feature on Carbondale River a couple of times, Chuck Lee, the organiser of the event broke the news that one of the participants had been taken to the hospital in an ambulance. He explained that a group of kayakers were going over Lundbreck Falls and that on this particular run the boater was held under the falls for several minutes. He was revived once or twice but that’s all he let us know at the time. He emphasized again the need to always be vigilant and to remember that these kinds of things don’t just happen in other places, they can happen here too. We held a moment of silence in respect for the victim.

It was a sobering thought because I had never heard of anyone getting caught in the flow of water under the falls, and to think I, myself, have braved the 12 meter drop and walked away without so much as a scratch.

Kayaking Lundbreck Falls

Jeff Milner going over Lundbreck Falls in June 2008.

I found out later that night who was involved in the accident. I had hoped that it would be someone that I didn’t know but that’s not how it turned out. His name is Jaron and I had bumped into him just the morning before at the put-in for the Upper Castle run. I have paddled with him and his twin brother Dave a couple of times over the last two years.

I looked up some old paddling footage and found some with him in it:

He’s the one in the yellow and orange boat, yellow jacket, and blue helmet. His twin brother is also in the video.

I didn’t know him that well, but it was obvious that he had a passion for kayaking. Both he and Dave are the kind of enthusiastic friendly people that you want to spend a sunny day with floating down the river and enjoying nature. I remember talking to Dave for a long time about his decision to become a teacher and although I have many other influences for my decision to go back to school, it was that conversation that tipped me over the edge.

Kayaking isn’t always considered an extreme sport where you expect to hear about someone dying but every year there are a few news stories where someone drowns in a river. Almost always they are inexperienced or not wearing PFDs, or there is alcohol involved somehow so Jaron’s death comes as a great shock to the paddling community.

Hockey

“I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.”
-Rodney Dangerfield

I am almost ready to give up on the playoffs. With the obvious exception of International hockey, the teams I cheer for so rarely get to the finals. The Calgary Flames didn’t even make the play-offs this year. At least the weather is getting nice so I will be out playing Ultimate and road hockey a lot this spring.

The Odds For Hockey Gold At The 2010 Winter Olympics

Odds to Win the 2010 Olympic Ice Hockey Championship
Canada 1/1
Russia 2/1
Sweden 11/2
USA 7/1
Czech Republic 15/1
Finland 16/1
Slovakia 40/1
Switzerland 125/1
Germany 400/1
Belarus 500/1
Latvia 500/1
Norway 500/1
Continue reading “The Odds For Hockey Gold At The 2010 Winter Olympics”