Denis Ten stood out in sea of excellence

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My photo of Denis Ten in the mixed zone at the World Figure Skating Championships in London in 2013.

 

Crushed to hear of the death of Denis Ten in Kazakhstan on Thursday.

The silver medalist from the World Figure Skating championships in London made a lasting impression on me when he was here.

Denis Ten gave me a couple of fantastic interview at the worlds. He was engaging, always smiling and excited to talk about his freedom fighting ancestor from Korea.

The then 19-year-old took the time to talk to everyone.

It was shocking to hear that he had been stabbed multiple times over car mirrors in Kazakhstan, where he was born.

Reports stay Ten was stabbed after confronting thieves who were stealing his car mirrors. He bled to death.

Ten won the silver medal in London and nearly beat Canadian Patrick Chan for gold.

Ten skated a memorable long program to The Artist .

His choreography and interpretation of  the music was superlative and he stood out among the world’s best.

So amazing was his performance that a petition was started to try to get him the gold.

Ten had the best free skate of the night with a personal best of 174.92. Chan scored 169.41 on the long program, with 267.78 overall. Ten nearly caught him, finishing at 266.48.

An emotional Ten got down on his hands and knees at centre ice at Budweiser Gardens after his skate and kissed the ice. He touched his heart and blew kisses to the audience. Two Kazakhstan flags were seen in the crowd. Later he had one of them as he skated around the arena.

When I talked to Ten about his skating he said it was great-great grandfather who brought him courage on the ice.

Ten’s ancestor was Korean freedom fighter General Min Keung-Ho, who sacrificed his life for Korea’s independence in the early 20th century and is much revered there.

“Sometimes I skate and I think that he watches at me and I have no chance to fail him, to disappoint him. It’s sort of an additional responsibility to me,” he said.

“I wish I could meet with him and talk to him because I know how strong he was. All this helps me when I realize my great-great-grandfather was such a great man.”

Maybe he’ll get his chance to meet his great-great grandfather now. It’s the only consolation as I think of such a ruthless and senseless act that took Ten’s life.

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Denis Ten, right, on the podium after receiving his silver medal at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championship. Patric Chan of Canada receives gold and Javier Fernandez of Spain won bronze.  Kathy Rumleski photo

 

 

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Priest empowered women and girls

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A beloved priest passed away on Sunday in London.

Fr. John Devine was our parish priest at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Sarnia when I was young.

The school my brother and I attended was next door to the church and Fr. Devine was a constant presence as we walked to and from school past the church and when he came into classrooms frequently to talk to the children.

Many of my classmates became altar servers at the request of Fr. Devine and many of the servers were girls.

It was at a time when there were no female altar servers. We didn’t know it but we were breaking new ground.

We loved working with Fr. Devine and he made us feel appreciated and respected. He joked and laughed with us frequently. He answered all our questions, including, “Do animals go to heaven?” and taught us to love and respect every human being.

He worked with a nun named Sister Mary and they were a formidable team. She was his equal always and we knew that as children.

Moving is tough when you’re a kid and you leave the familiar. When our family was leaving the city for Lambton County, Fr. Devine gave me a gift before I left. It was a beautiful lantern that I still have to this day. It was to light my way. It always has.

His kindness has never been forgotten by me and countless others.

http://donohuefuneralhome.ca/tribute/details/5628/Reverend-John-Devine/obituary.html#tribute-start

Why sports so important to high school experience

I just love this video.

Today my son’s basketball team won a thriller in double overtime in the semifinal at the Ontario high school championships – OFSAA – in Pembroke.

They now go on to the gold-medal game tonight.

The students at Mother Teresa high school in Northeast London had a chance to watch the game, thanks to a livestream provided by media studies students at Pembroke, where the OFSAA tournament was held.

It is the first time the school has had a boys basketball team at OFSAA.

Even if you don’t play sports, the win was a big one for the school and student body, who celebrated wildly.

These kids will remember this game winning shot as time ran out by Oren Rusagara for the rest of their lives.

Check it out on Twitter.

Remembering my uncle

Allen Olimer
Allen Olimer

 

I always think of my great uncle Allen Olimer at this time of year.

A self-made man running his own store in Northern Ontario, Allen decided at 35 to serve his country.

He felt he could serve best as a cook and became a member of the 10th Armoured Regiment.

On Aug.  8, 1944 Allen was killed when the Americans mistakenly bombed their allies. It was a horrific day in which many lives were lost.

Below is the photo taken after the bombing on that day, courtesy of Fort Garry Horse Museum and Archives.

Thank you for your sacrifice Allen and to the many men and women who died for freedom. We remember all those who have died this day.

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Anchor of our neighbourhood passes away

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Ron Rivait is left at the top of the porch. I am seated on the top step.

This photo from years ago gives a glimpse of the neighbourhood where I spent my formative years as a child.

Sarnia’s Brock Street was a block full of kids so we had plenty of participants for games, hide-and-seek, the odd prank and secret clubs.

The doors were always open in the neighbourhood to all, as seen here, and we would come and go from each other’s homes often.

In my mind, our neighbourhood had 11 months of summer and a month of winter. It was kind of a special place.

My memories are full of those endless summer days, most of which were spent in the Rivait family’s backyard pool.

We couldn’t get enough pool time and all the kids filled it constantly. Bless the Rivaits for putting up with all of us.

Ron Rivait was the middle boy of the family. He and I hung out in the neighbourhood, were in the same class at school each year and became altar servers at our church.

When Ron received the news that he had terminal cancer, he bravely faced it, providing a lesson in courage.

We had planned a Brock Street reunion two weeks ago here in Sarnia and Ron was looking forward to it, but he became too sick to attend. Our friend from the neighbourhood, musician and singer Sean Hogan, was performing.

We raised a toast to Ron at our reunion and the whole bar joined in. When I sent an email to Cheryl about this, she replied back that my message brought a smile to Ron’s face.

It’s the least we could do as Ron brought so many smiles to ours.

Ron lived in the same house on Brock Street his whole life.

He was an anchor for us.

The rest of us eventually all moved away, but knowing Ron was still there somehow kept us moored. It was a comforting thought to know we could drive through the old neighbourhood again and Ron would still be there.

It meant that maybe some things never do change.

You really can go home again and see the same little boy with the easy smile and good nature in the same two-storey white house with the big front porch from your childhood.

The same boy who would wear bubble gum lip gloss because our teacher wouldn’t let us chew gum in class. He found a way to outsmart her. (When Ron became sick our classmate Sharon took some bubble gum lip gloss to his home.)

The same boy who was game for any challenge and could be mischievous in the best sense of the word.

The boy who always protected his little brother.

The boy who loved lacrosse.

The boy who played superheroes with my brother.

And the boy who grew up to be a superhero in his community: a union leader, who fought for the rights of others and aided my stepmother in her time of need; a manager with Sarnia Ice Hawks sledge hockey; a volunteer with the Heart and Stroke Foundation and other organizations.

This past May he was involved in a community forum for student mental wellness and a couple of years ago he raised awareness about the issue of racism in elementary schools.

Last Monday all the schools in the Lambton Kent district lowered their flags to half in memory of Ron. That’s how highly respected he was.

Two years ago, when we had our first Brock Street Gang reunion, I remember thinking maybe this is what heaven is like – seeing people you haven’t seen for years and being so joyful in their presence.

I hope Ron is in that joyful place right now. He certainly deserves it.

I have this picture of he and I from one of our reunions that I’ll always treasure.

I can still see that little boy in his face and I can’t wait to see Ron’s face again someday.

 

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Ron and I all grown up,

Saying good-bye to Branks

Don Brankley

Many people in the junior hockey world will be in London Tuesday to pay their respects to a beloved trainer.

Don (Branks) Brankley spent nearly 40 years with the London Knights organization and they will honour him with a celebration of his life at 6 p.m.

Branks, who passed away last month at the age of 69,  was a colourful character. During out of town games, he would be heckled by the opponent’s fans. Loving every minute of it, Branks would do what he could to rile them up.

He slept at the arenas where he worked – Treasure Island  Gardens, which became the Ice House, and then at the downtown arena, now called Budweiser Gardens.

I remember going to talk to Don one day in the bowels of the arena. He was busy washing the team’s uniforms and players were hanging around him then, as always. He told me the players were his life.

He had a special relationship with them, for sure. He said that they told him things they would never tell a coach.

Former Knights would always have to stop in and see Branks if they were in town. I once missed an interview with Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan, because he wanted to go see Don. Shanahan will get one last time to honour his mentor when he speaks at his celebration of life.

The last time I saw Branks was at the 2014 Memorial Cup in London. After retiring in 2008 and moving north to Capreol, he came back to see his boys.

I wrote a blog for CTV London about the man who held the respect of generations of players. You can read it here: http://london.ctvnews.ca/jealousy-of-knights-organization-causes-hate-of-late-1.1835349/comments-7.519187

One thing that stood out that day in May was how happy he was to be “home.

He enjoyed talking to everyone he came across, whether he knew the person or not. And at the Memorial Cup there were many who wanted to bend his ear. Branks loved every minute of it. I think this quote he gave me sums up Branks so well: “I’m a great believer that if someone wants to acknowledge you as a person, you have a duty to stop and chat with them and make them feel as special as they’ve made you feel.”

We will miss you Branks, until we meet again.