Tales of Triumph over Adversity: Virtual Athletic Banquet

What comes to mind when you think about adversity? It was the question put to each of the award presenters at St. Michael’s College School’s (SMCS) 2020 Virtual Athletic Banquet.

It was also the theme of this year’s celebration of student-athletes, which has taken place annually at the end of the school year for more than 60 years.

From Olympians --- past, present, and future --- to professional athletes and staff from various sports leagues, each presenter provided personal reflections on what adversity has meant in their journey during the online awards ceremony.

“When I think of adversity, I look at it as an opportunity for leaders to emerge," says Jason Spezza, former SMCS student in 1998, and 17-year NHL veteran. The Toronto native and current Toronto Maple Leafs forward presented one of the evening’s nine major awards.

Jason Spezza, one of the presenters at SMCS' first virtual athletic banquet on triumph over adversity.

“Adversity builds character,” added Rod Black, sports broadcaster on TSN, calling it the ‘ABC’ rule. The father of three and familiar face to sports fans on television for more than 30 years handed out four awards.

For two-time Olympian Brittany MacLean, who swam to a bronze medal in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay at the 2016 Games in Rio, shifting mental gears has been a key to her overcoming adversity.

“Instead of focusing on what you can’t control, try to focus on what you can --- your attitude and your effort,” says the 26-year-old Etobicoke native and retired swimmer. MacLean is currently a Specialist in Athlete Marketing and Olympian Legacy at the Canadian Olympic Committee. 

Cheryl Bernard, one of the award presenters at SMCS' first virtual athletic banquet.

“We can choose to overcome adversity,” says Cheryl Bernard, two-time Olympian and silver medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Games in curling. “We create the person we become by the choices that we make. Those choices are never easy, but when you arrive at those forks in the road, your story can choose to go their way or your way. Choose your way.”

Bernard is the current President and CEO of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The 2020 Virtual Athletic Banquet featured:

  • Theme of ‘overcoming adversity’
  • Keynote speaker, Justyn Knight ’14, Team Canada athlete
  • 70+ individual student-athlete award winners
  • 28 award presenters
  • 25 award categories
  • Special tribute to Frank Trentadue ’84, outgoing coach of 30+ years

Participants in the event included:

  • School administration and staff
  • SMCS alumni
  • Olympic athletes (past, present, and future)
  • Professional and amateur athletes
  • Sports broadcasters
  • NHL, NFL, CFL, NBA, MLB (past and present staff)

Watch the 2020 Virtual Athletic Banquet awards ceremony:

See the reaction of some of the evening’s award winners as they watched from home with their families.

SMCS family watching the first virtual athletic banquet that focused on triumph over adversity
SMCS family watching the first virtual athletic banquet.
SMCS family watching the first virtual athletic banquet.

Related links

Annual Sports Showcase to Go Virtual: A School First

Curling Team Makes SMCS Debut

When Faith and Sport Face-Off

SMCS Blue Eagles Take Home First-ever OFSAA Win

Reflections from the Home of Golf

Fairway to Heaven: Golf Team