Greater Trail athletes Thea Culley of Rossland and Fruitvale’s Ella Matteucci play two very different sports but their paths will cross when they meet at the opening ceremonies as part of Team Canada’s contingent competing at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto July 11-26.
Apart from their red hair and athletic prowess, Culley and Matteucci are very different when it comes to their respective sporting careers. The 29-year-old Culley is a veteran of 10 years on the national team and the senior member of the women’s Team Canada field hockey team with close to 140 caps (games played against international competition). She competed in two Commonwealth Games in 2010 and 2014, claimed a fourth-place finish at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and won bronze at the Pan Am Cup in Argentina in 2013.
Matteucci is a 21-year-old two-sport phenom and one of the youngest players on Team Canada women’s baseball team. Her first international competition came last year when she helped Canada to a fourth place finish at the IBAF World Championship in Japan and her second will be at the Pan Am Games where women’s baseball is making its historic debut. Matteucci recently graduated from Clarkson University where she helped the Knights hockey team to the NCAA championship in 2014 and won the 2011 AAA Midget Canadian championship Esso Cup with the Notre Dame Hounds in her graduating year from high school.
Matteucci’s star is on the rise while the veteran Culley is looking at what could be her last shot at qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The winner of the Pan Am competition will advance to the Games and is Canada’s final opportunity at qualifying. Regardless of the outcome, it has been a very exciting and rewarding career for the RSS graduate and this year was no exception.
The team travelled to New Zealand for a three-week tour in January,were in Ireland for three weeks in March, and then their most recent tour was five weeks, two spent in Toronto where Team Canada hosted Ireland in a four-game series in June and three weeks in Spain for the Olympic qualifying tournament.
The experience should serve Culley and Team Canada well going into the Pan Am Games, while, Matteucci and Canada’s baseball squad begin a warm up tournament in eastern Canada starting on Thursday.
Their respective roads to gold begin this week with the opening ceremonies on July 10, with Matteucci and the Canadian baseball women opening the Games on July 20 against Cuba and Culley and the field hockey team going against the Dominican Republic July 13.
This story will appear in the July 16th edition of the West Kootenay Advertiser