Sporting life a family affair

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

Kathleen Murphy brought a special gift to last night's Ottawa Sports Awards ceremony.

Perhaps the recipient, her 13-year-old-son Brennan Villemaire, might some day hand it down to another athlete in the family's next generation.

Three decades ago, Murphy purchased a commemorative silver coin from the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. She competed in gymnastics, tumbling and vaulting on the same floor at the old Montreal Forum in those Summer Games as her sporting hero, Nadia Comaneci.

Murphy has kept the coin in a safe place, cherishing the souvenir of a highlight athletic moment.

Her son had never seen it until last night when Murphy, with her husband Robert and daughter Mary present, handed it over before dinner at the awards ceremony at Algonquin College.

'GREAT CONNECTION'

"I just thought it was a great connection between the two of us," said Murphy. "It's tough to give that up, but not so tough to give it to him."

The boy stared at the coin, and figured out the connection and its significance.

"I'd love to go to the Olympics. That's one of my goals," said Villemaire, a diver who has the 2008 Beijing Games in mind.

His coach, Luda Zakharenko of the Nepean-Ottawa Diving Club, thinks he has a chance to get there.

"He's a very talented boy, very hard working," said the coach. "I would say he's goal oriented because he wants to fulfill what his mom did, going to the Olympics. He was born with that, and it's in his genes."

In 1976, Murphy was recognized as the city's top amateur gymnast at the ACT Awards, the predecessor to the current ceremony.

Last night, her son accepted the trophy as Ottawa's top amateur diver in 2005, one of the youngest recipients at the ceremony.

Murphy introduced her son to sports as a three-year-old, first in gymnastics.

"It's a great sport and a great foundation for anything you do," said Murphy.

Her son also tried soccer and swimming before taking up diving after watching other kids jump off the boards at the Nepean Sportsplex.

"He tried it and caught on to it very quickly," said Murphy. "He was very good."

Villemaire has become one of Ontario's top divers in his age category and competed at last year's junior nationals in Quebec City.

"Last year was very successful for us," said Zakharenko. "Everywhere he went, he came home with medals."

Earlier this month, Murphy found the trophy she won at the ACT dinner, dusted it off and started to think about her son winning a similar award 30 years later.

"I think that's pretty cool," she said.

BEAN HONOURED

Other award recipients included male athlete of the year Jeff Bean, who's bound for the Turin Olympics to compete in aerials freestyle skiing.

The top female athlete was Liz Urbach, the 2005 Canadian lightweight singles rowing champ and a member of the national lightweight quad team that won the world title.

Carleton Ravens men's basketball coach Dave Smart received the male coach of the year, guiding the club to a third straight CIS title, while Erin O'Grady received the female coaching trophy for her work with the under-17 Ontario women's basketball team that won the gold medal at last summer's Canada Games in Regina.

Smart's squad also copped the top male team award. The female honours went to Jenn Hanna's Ontario championship curling team.

Figure skating instructor and former world champ Don Jackson received the Mayor's Cup for outstanding contribution to sport.

Lifetime achievement awards went to Gil Read (volunteer or administrator), Mary Jane Bowie (official) and Bob Ferguson (sports media).

One of the loudest ovations of the evening went to the Ottawa 67's Danny Battochio, who received the award for hockey on the same day he was named the CHL's goaltender of the week.


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