(Jalena Marelic, shares her enthusiasm for Team Ontario at the Canada Winter Games held in PEI in February 2023. Jalena is a West Ottawa Ringette alumni who through her hard work was chosen to compete with Team Ontario at the CWG. Photos: Jalena Marelic)
Over the week of February 18th – 25th, ringette players from all across the country travelled to Charlottetown, PEI to compete in the Canada Winter Games. Despite not winning a medal at the tournament, West Ottawa Ringette alumni player Jalena Marelic represented her province well and now shares a little more about her experience wearing the “O” out east.
Having the opportunity to represent your province at a national level is something any athlete dreams of, but with such an incredible opportunity, comes nerves and a lot of attention. Jalena Marelic shares that if she could go back and give herself any advice before the tournament, it would be “to soak it all in, give it you’re all every shift and just have fun because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it can quickly turn into a memory.”
Getting the chance to wear the red and black for Ontario is an unforgettable experience no matter how you look at it, but what are some other significant memories from the trip? Jalena says, “one memory that will forever stick with me would be the feeling of walking out at the opening ceremonies cheering for your province, wearing matching uniforms as all other Ontario athletes, and seeing all the different provinces and their colours. Right then and there was the feeling of wow I am really here and that is one memory that I will never forget.”
It’s not every day that athletes get to travel across their country to compete in their sport at a high level, and the athletes at the Canada Winter Games were lucky enough to get to do so in a community as welcoming as Charlottetown, PEI. When asked about her experience in PEI, Marelic says, “it was surreal. Competing at the Canada Winter Games level was an amazing and unforgettable opportunity. The province of PEI was so welcoming and the volunteers from that province and all around Canada were so kind and generous.”
As far as being able to explore the town goes, “At the Canada Winter Games, we are technically not allowed to leave the athlete’s village unless we are competing or watching other athletes compete,” Jalena shares. “We had an amazing opportunity to support the wheelchair basketball team, squash, and men’s hockey team. My favourite part of the tournament besides the games I have played would be spending time with my team while cheering on other teams. Even though we did not get the outcome we would have wanted, we had an amazing opportunity to support the men’s hockey team as they won gold in the second round of overtime!”
Despite not finishing with the outcome they would have wanted, the Ontario ringette team had a great showing at the national tournament, going undefeated with four wins and no losses in the round-robin but unfortunately falling 8-4 to Quebec in the quarter-final round.
It wasn’t only the team that had a good showing, former West Ottawa player Jalena Marelic was among the leading scorers on Team Ontario with 15 points. She finished the tournament with five goals and ten assists. When asked about the multitude of scoring opportunities she was a part of, Jalena shares, “I think the key to my offensive success would be having the opportunity to play on the same line with such strong and efficient players. We all complement each other in our own ways on the ice which drives us to success in the offensive zone.”
Playing on a team of the best forwards always helps offensive success, but when playing against the high-level defence of opposing teams, what approach in the offensive zone made this line’s particular style of play so productive? “Whenever I am out on the ice, I tend to focus more on the people around me and the open lanes that can be created from always moving your feet and faking any movement,” Jalena explains. “What I look for in a scoring opportunity is the ability to move the triangle and get the defence out of position so we can isolate one D and the goalie in order to have a better scoring opportunity. For our line, we had the most success in overloading one side of the ice and isolating the defence on the other side for a 1vs1 to the net.”
Jalena was one of the older players on Team Ontario’s roster. When talking about how the leadership of the team was divided and how a team with people of so many different ages from different teams managed to come together so seamlessly, Jalena commented, “I did not have a leadership role on the team, but in my personal opinion and with my experience at a high level, this is the first team I have ever been on where we all were leaders in our own ways. Even our youngest player on the team was never afraid to step up and talk, we were all collectively team players.”
That is one challenge that can be easily overlooked at the Canada Winter Games, many of the team sports have teams that were put together quite recently and are full of athletes from different teams, towns, and backgrounds. That is why team bonding can be just as necessary as on-ice practices for teams. “This was the first time for most of the girls on the team to all play with each other but luckily this group of girls is so friendly and fun that it made it so easy for all of us to bond with each other,” Jalena says. “We always made sure at training camps and tournaments to play any sort of game with each other and just always continue talking and communicating amongst each other and our line mates.”
Team Ontario may not have come home with a medal like they expected to, but they still put on a great showing and per the athletes, made memories that will last a lifetime. The Canada Winter Games was great exposure for the sport of ringette and a great demonstration of high-level talent from all athletes including West Ottawa Ringette Alumuni, Jalena Marelic.
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