James Sawchuk wasn’t expecting to get a bronze medal after the Canadian mens’ ice hockey team beat Czech Republic 4-3 at the Universiade Games.
Sawchuk, from Mallorytown, was the athletic therapist for the Canucks and he didn’t get a medal when he held the same job with the national volleyball squad that won a silver in 2007 at the Universiade Games and there was no reason to think he would get one this time around.
The coaching staff and players, which included Prescott-born forward Ryan Van Stralen, received their medals at a ceremony after the bronze game a couple of weeks ago. At that time Sawchuk and the equipment manager were the only ones to not get a medal and then just before they were about to leave they were given bronzes after people from the Canadian delegation pulled a few strings.
“I kind of anticipated that as a staff I wouldn’t receive one this time physically, so to actually get one is really quite exciting,” said Sawchuk, part of Queen’s athletic therapy services. “To get a medal was really very much an honour and really quite humbling.”
Sawchuk is going to try to do something special with his medal and the Canadian jersey he was given with his name on the back of it.
The experience of putting on a medal that you helped your country win is a humbling feeling, Sawchuk said. He went out to Kazakhstan, where the Winter Universiade was held, and did his job to the best of his abilities.
He passes the praise to the Canadian players, though, and modestly adds, “That really in the end, they’re the ones who did all the work.” The Canadian delegation making sure he got a medal might not agree with that comment.
Sawchuk getting named to Team Canada’s staff is a recognition of its own.
Queen’s hockey coach Brett Gibson, from Gananoque, got to pick his own staff and could have chosen anyone to take with him to the Universiade as his athletic therapist, but he selected to stick with Sawchuk, someone he has around all the time with the Golden Gaels.
This was Sawchuk’s second time at the Universiade and it was vastly different from when he went to Thailand for the Games 10 years ago. Last time he went to the Universiade he was working fulltime with Volleyball Canada and knew the players very well for a considerable amount of time.
This year, with only four players from Queen’s on the Canadian roster, Sawchuk didn’t get to meet most of the team until their week-long training camp in December.
“It was different that way in that you were getting to know players and different personalities in what they need and expect from you,” Sawchuk said. “You’re trying to figure out everyone’s needs and see what they like to do before or after a game quicker, so you can make sure you’re on top of whatever they need for prep or recovery versus when I worked with Volleyball Canada I worked with those guys every single day.”
The other major difference between 2007 and 2017 is now he gets to hold onto his international hardware.