The University of Windsor held a press conference to introduce its four latest foreign athletes Iva Peklova, Frida Nevalainen, Johanna Wernersson, and Sasha Lazic to the public last Wednesday. Eric Vandenbroucke, the Marketing Manager of the Department of Athletics and Recreational Services said, “Certainly, over the past number of years there’s a lot of excitement and interest in the Lancers and, I think, a lot of the hard work and great recruiting for our Lancers to have success….it’s not only critical to invest in local athletes at home, but it’s also critical to find the top recruits from across the province, the country and now internationally.”
All four Lancers seemed excited and overwhelmed by the warm and formal welcome they received from the school. University of Windsor President Ross Paul was at the conference to greet the players, and he welcomed them formally.
Paul said, “When I first came here 10 years ago, we looked at the challenge that was facing our university. One of my most important objectives and my proudest achievement was to really bring the world to Windsor.” He continued, “I don’t think you can call yourself university educated today if you haven’t been exposed to other cultures, other ways of thinking other ways of knowing.”
“I have this vision now at the Winter Olympics in 2010 in Vancouver of four people on the podium from three different countries and they’re all Lancers, and I love that. But I also love what you’re bringing both to the University as students and to your respective teams as athletes,” said the president.
Gord Grace, the Athletics Director for Athletics and Recreational Services, said “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all three teams have a shot to be in the top 10 this year. And just thinking about that, thinking that if they go on to win the Ontario Championship do they get to take the trophy back to their home country? … And that would be a real neat photo to see one of those trophies, like the Wilson Cup, going back to Serbia.”
Both Frida Nevalainen and Johanna Wernersson are hockey players recruited from Sweden for the Lancer women’s hockey team. Both are star players and are already enjoying being part of the team. Both have said that they are grateful for the help given from the team and the staff. Nevalainen played for the Swedish National team that won an Olympic silver medal at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy. Wernersson stood out when she played junior hockey in Sweden, and she hopes to make the Swedish National Team for the 2010 Olympics along with Nevalainen. So, when Ross Paul boasted that there would soon be Lancer athletes on the Olympic podium, he wasn’t kidding.
Iva Peklova, a native of the Czech Republic and one of the top junior players in the country, is intent on improving the Lancer Women’s Basketball team after being recruited by head coach Chantal Vallee. She has played for the Czech Junior National team, which went to the European championship in 2006. Traveling the world is not a new deal for Peklova who represented the Czech Republic in the World University Games in Bangkok, Thailand.
Sasha Lazic, a native Serbian basketball player, is also very excited to play for Windsor. He is a versatile player, towering over other players at 6’7 and dominates on defense. He is happy to be in Windsor and said that he has family here, two uncles and cousins, that have helped get him settled into an apartment and make him feel at home. While enrolled in computer science at the University in his free time Lazic is “getting to know the team” and learning English. His hopes are that the Lancer Basketball team will be “one of the best in Canada” and will be very strong “offensively.” Playing basketball around the world is not new to Lazic either who has played in France, Bulgaria, and Romania. However, this is the first time he has lived away from home.
Johanna Wernersson is international addition to Lancer’s Women’s Hockey team’s defense. The Hockey star has played the game all her life and is thrilled to be playing in Canada. Having only played once before in Canada for a tournament that lasted 10 days, the Swede is hoping to catch a break for the next winter Olympics here. Wernersson who has come to Windsor by way of the school’s recruiting enjoys that the hockey here is “more competitive, aggressive,” and has more all-around talent. She wants to be able to play at a high level and that is exactly why she joined the Lancers. While at the University she will be studying the sciences and trying to learn more English as well.