A Bittersweet Week as Canada Loses a Life and Saves a Life
The Canadian sports community and the Canadian tennis community are saddened by the news that Bruno Agostinelli, an unlikely hero for Canadian tennis in the 2009 Davis Cup competition, died in a motorcycle accident last week, in Toronto. As sad as it is for those of us who are involved in Canadian sports, we must first send our deepest sympathies to Bruno Agostinelli's young bride of just one year and his infant son, born two weeks ago.
Agostinelli was chosen for the 2009 Canadian Davis Cup team almost as an afterthought. In his career he was never ranked higher than #978. When he was chosen by Coach Martin Laurendeau it raised some eyebrows because Bruno was never a top world class tennis player.
Then Peter Polansky became ill and had to be hospitalized. It was clear that Polansky would not be able to regain his strength in time for a Davis Cup match so the fourth player on the team, young Bruno Agostinelli, was thrust into a spotlight he may not have ever thought he would occupy. He was to play Ivan Miranda in the final match of the first stage of the tournament. Had he lost, the Canadian team would have fallen out of the first division.
At the time, Bruno had only some experience at the college level and no professional experience at all. The match was being played on a slow clay court which may have helped him. Bruno led the match two sets to one when it was delayed overnight by darkness. The next day, gunshots were heard in the stadium and the match was further delayed for two hours.
An inexperienced, untried young player may have caved in to the pressure of carrying a game overnight, mentally intruding on his sleep, and then having gotten himself mentally ready to resume the match only to have it delayed again. Bruno won the match and kept Canada in the first division.
After his college career ended, Bruno tried the professional tennis circuit for a time but quickly decided that his true future lay in coaching. He is another in a long line of coaches and managers who having been poor relative to their peers as players nevertheless make great coaches.
Bruno was extraordinarily popular as a coach and friend.
Biathlon Bronze Medal
On a much more pleasant note, the Canadian men's biathlon relay team never quit and fought their way to the bronze medal at the Biathlon World Championships in Norway. This was the first time a Canadian biathlon team had won a medal in the relay so hats off to the team of Brendan Green, Nathan Smith, and brothers Christian and Scott Gow.
Nathan Smith won the silver medal in the sprint race at the World Championships last year, yet, even he thought that the chances for the Canadian men's relay team to win a medal were small. Each team member performed above their average to secure the bronze, 23.4 seconds behind the gold medal winners from Norway in a competition that lasted one hour and 13 minutes and 16.8 seconds! Athletics at this level are truly a matter of split-seconds!
Canadian Junior Curling Champions
Mary Fay's team from Nova Scotia won the gold medal at the World Junior Curling Championships held in Denmark. The team includes Mary, Kristin Clark, Karlee Burgess, and Janique LeBlanc. Matt Dunstone's Winnipeg team won the bronze. In addition to Matt, team members are Colton Lott, Kyle Doering, Robbie Gordon, and Wade Ford.
Mary Fay's face was prominently featured in curling news around the world for another reason: she won the World Junior Curling Championship Sportsmanship Award!
As happy as we are for the success of our junior curlers, the better than good news out of Denmark this week is that even as Canada was losing the life of a favourite native son in an unfortunate accident, Canadians helped save a life through quick thinking and superhuman effort.
Kyle Doering and Wade Ford of Matt Dunstone's bronze medal team were walking from their hotel room to the rink to play South Korea when they heard a loud crash. A backhoe had fallen backward as the Danish construction worker was trying to drive it off a trailer. The worker screamed in agony, his leg crushed beneath the heavy machine. The worker screamed instructions to the boys but they couldn't understand him. Matt Dunstone's grandfather was walking a bit behind the two lads and now came to the accident scene and a Danish passerby joined them.
By superhuman effort, three of them lifted the backhoe enough that Doering was able to pull the man, who was far heavier and larger than Doering is, from underneath it. Kyle's father passed by the accident scene on his way to the match and also wondered how anyone could survive being under such a heavy machine and survive. When he learned that his son had been involved in saving the young man's life, he understood why Kyle seemed to be having trouble focusing on the match. Kyle and Wade have learnt a very important lesson about how fleeting not only success but life itself can be. It certainly gives us some perspective about how we often give too much emphasis to sports.