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A night of emotion marks 25th class at Sports Hall of Fame

Posted on October 30, 2016

It was an emotional night Saturday as the Class of 2016, the 25th enshrined, was inducted into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame at the Westin Bear Mountain.

Because of his success at Saanich Commonwealth Place guiding the careers of Olympic-medallist swimmers such as Ryan Cochrane and Hilary Caldwell, it was evident that coach Randy Bennett was one day headed to the Victoria Sports Hall.

Nobody expected, or wanted, that day to be so soon. Bennett, who died of cancer at age 51 in 2015, was inducted posthumously.

“Since our dad’s passing, so many people from outside sources have said what a great man and coach he was. That has been powerful and special for us,’ said Bennett’s 18-year-old son Brett, who accepted his dad’s induction, along with his 16-year-old brother, Kyle.

Soccer inductee Simon Keith, meanwhile, did not know if he would live to see this day. Keith, struck down mid-career at the University of Victoria in the 1980s by a heart virus, went on to make international headlines by becoming one of the rare athletes to play pro sports after a heart transplant.

“I am so humbled by, and respectful, of this honour tonight and so grateful that my parents caught a boat in the late 1960s and came to this haven called Victoria, where sport is so much a culture of the city,” Keith said.

Fellow Class of 2016 Victoria Sports Hall inductee, the two-time Olympic triathlon medallist Simon Whitfield, echoed those sentiments.

“I adopted this community in 1997, which so embraces sport,” Whitfield said. “What an honour it is to be inducted tonight. My kids can now run around Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre and have a laugh that dad’s on the wall.”

Plaques honouring the inductees from the Class of 2016 will join those for the 204 previously enshrined in the Hall, lining the concourse walls of the Memorial Centre.

Also enshrined in the Class of 2016: UVic basketball dynasty great and two-time Olympian Gerald Kazanowski; UVic Vikes grad and two-time Olympian Nancy Mollenhauer from field hockey; former NHLer and 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics-medallist Kent Manderville, also a two-time world junior hockey gold medallist for Canada; legendary Elk Lake and Olympic gold-medallist rowing coach Mike Spracklen; former Tennis Canada president and CEO Bob Moffatt; and John and Marilyn Bate, for their work in running the old Memorial Arena.

Story: Cleve Dheenshaw