Swimmer Gabe Mastromatteo, basketball player Sarah Gates named U Sports athletes of the year

University of Toronto swimmer Gabriel Mastromatteo and McMaster basketball player Sarah Gates earned the Doug and Lois Mitchell Awards as this year’s top athletes in Canadian university sports Wednesday.

Mastromatteo of Kenora, Ont., won the 50-metre and 100-metre men’s breaststroke in U Sports record times at the national championship.

The 21-year-old, who was an Olympian in Tokyo in 2021, also won silver medals in the 200-metre breaststroke and in the 4 x 100 medley relay for the Varsity Blues.

Gates of Newmarket, Ont., was the country’s top scorer in women’s basketball this season with 27.3 points per game.

She capped her university career as the Marauders’ all-time leading scorer in women’s hoops with 1,857 points over five seasons.

Mastromatteo and Gates each received their trophies and a $5,000 scholarship to pursue post-graduate studies at a ceremony Wednesday evening in Calgary.

The top U Sports male and female athletes have been recognized since 1993 when former CFL player and commissioner and UBC football alum Doug Mitchell founded the awards.

Mitchell died last year at the age of 83.

His wife Lois Mitchell, who was Alberta’s lieutenant-governor from 2015 to 2020, has continued their joint sponsorship of the awards.

The honours were previously called the Howard Mackie Awards, BLG Awards and lieutenant-governor Athletics Awards.

No winners were announced in 2021 because the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted university sports.

The 2022 winners were Edmonton Elks quarterback Tre Ford (Waterloo) and Canadian women’s team rugby player Sophie de Goede (Queen’s).

Previous winners also include CFL players Jesse Lumsden, Don Blair and Andrew Buckley as well as Olympic swimmer Kylie Masse, heptathlete Jessica Zelinka and hockey player Kim St. Pierre.

The trustees of the Canadian Athletic Foundation, a not-for-profit board founded 31 years ago by Doug Mitchell, voted for the winners.

One finalist of each gender from each of the four conferences — Atlantic, Ontario, Quebec and Canada West — are chosen annually.

All finalists receive a commemorative ring.

Alberta volleyball player Jordan Canham and Mount Royal hockey player Tatum Amy represented Canada West.

McGill swimmer Pablo Collin and Laval track and field and cross-country runner Jessy Lacourse were the Reseau du sport etudiant du Quebec finalists.

Saint Mary’s cross-country and track runner Andrew Peverill and University of New Brunswick hockey player Kendra Woodland were the Atlantic conference nominees.

Ontario athletes swept the male and female awards a second straight year and for the fifth time overall.

U Sports is one of the largest sports leagues in Canada with 4,000 student-athletes playing varsity sports in 56 Canadian universities from Victoria to St. John’s, N.L.

Mastromatteo is the first University of Toronto athlete to win the male athlete of the year.

The commerce student has three more years of U Sports eligibility remaining.

‘World class swimmer’

“Gabe is a world class swimmer and showed that with his two meet records at the national championships this season,” Varsity Blues swimming coach Byron Macdonald said in a statement.

“But there are potholes in any adventure and Gabe hit a huge one last year with a heavy COVID hit that kept him out of serious training for several months.

“With that comes doubt and lots of challenges, so it’s a strong support staff and personal drive that has gotten Gabe back to his previous form.”

Mastromatteo has been named to Canada’s Pan American Games swim team that will compete in Santiago, Chile later this year.

Shooter, leader

Gates, a human behaviour student, shot 48.3 per cent from the field and 37.7 per cent from three-point range while averaging 30 minutes per game.

She also served as chair of the Women’s Athletic Leadership Council and was a member of the Varsity Leadership Council.

“Her ability not only to score but to influence the game in so many ways has been phenomenal,” Marauders head coach Theresa Burns said in a statement.

“Equally wonderful has been her growth as a person and as a leader who has learned to use her voice to promote change, especially for female athletes.”

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