U of G Grads Nab Spots in the Top 10 at Beijing Olympics

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics wrapped up this weekend (Feb. 19-20) with impressive performances from the participating U of G grads.  

Cody Sorensen, 35, competed with his team in the four-man bobsleigh competition on the final weekend of the Olympics. They placed ninth overall with a time of three minutes, 56 seconds and 99 milliseconds. Germany’s team piloted by Francesco Friedrich won gold with a time of three minutes, 54 seconds and 30 milliseconds.

Mirela “Mimi” Rahneva, 33, competed in the women’s skeleton and just missed a medal, placing fifth overall in a career best. She started with the fastest time in the event, but the combined time from her runs totalled four minutes 9.15 seconds. The gold medal went to Hannah Neise of Germany whose times totalled four minutes 07.62 seconds.

Former U of G student Mikkel Aagaard, 26, was a “practice player” for the Danish men’s hockey team. Denmark, Aagaard’s home country, placed seventh, after losing to the Russian Olympic Committee with a score of 3-1 in the quarter finals. 

Dustin McCrank, 37, officiated the men’s hockey tournament as a linesman.  

Sorensen slides into the top 10

Members of Team Canada's four-men bobsleigh start on the track.
Four-men bobsleigh. Photo credit: International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation.

While hurdling with the Gryphons men’s track and field team, Sorensen studied management, economics and finance at U of G from 2004 to 2008. The three-time national medallist in the men’s 60 metres played a key role during his final season.   

At an open identification camp hosted by Bobsleigh Canada at York University, Sorensen found four-man bobsleigh to be “a good fit for his natural abilities as a bigger sprinter who was quick out of the blocks.”   

He served as an alternate for the Canadian men’s team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He says he was fortunate to “officially” become an Olympian in 2014 in Sochi, when he slid with Justin Kripps, Jesse Lumsden and Ben Coakwell.   

“That was a dream come true for me and it’s a surreal feeling to be able to come back to the Olympics after almost eight years off,” Sorensen, from Ottawa, said.    

He joined team pilot Chris Spring (with whom he slid at the 2013 World Cup), Mike Evelyn and Samuel Giguere at the National Sliding Centre from Feb. 19-20.  

“It will all come down to the push for us in four-man,” Sorensen said about the competition prior to the event. “We know Spring can drive and we have the sled to be fast. I’d say that we are an outside threat for a medal, and we expect to be in the mix after Day 1.”  

Rahneva now a two-time Olympian

an athlete wearing a helmet raises their hands in victory while on a skeleton sled
Mirela Rahneva of Team Canada. (Photo courtesy Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton)

While studying tourism management at U of G between 2006 and 2010, Mirela Rahneva, from Ottawa, played on the Gryphons women’s rugby team, during which she became a three-time Ontario University Athletics (OUA) champion and a four-time Canadian Interuniversity Sports (now U-Sports) bronze medallist.   

After graduating, she played for the Canadian national sevens rugby team. Inspired by Heather Moyse’s switch from rugby to bobsleigh, Rahneva tried bobsleigh but was too small and was encouraged to try skeleton in 2012.   

She began competing the following year. She has achieved six podium finishes at the World Cup and bronze at games in Germany and Switzerland during the 2021-22 season. Despite finishing 12th in her Olympic debut at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, she “has become a fixture on the international circuit for skeleton.”   

Women’s skeleton at the Beijing Olympics was held Feb. 11-12 at the National Sliding Centre.   

Aagaard competed as a ‘practice player’  

Mikkel Aagaard in a face-off during an ice hockey game against York University.
Mikkel Aagard is in a face-off with a York University player. (Photo courtesy of Guelph Gryphons).

Before studying accounting at U of G, Mikkel Aagaard, from Frederikshavn, Denmark, played in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Juniors and World Cup tournaments. 

He served as the team captain of the Gryphons men’s hockey team during the 2019-20 season before he was offered the chance to go pro, ending his studies at U of G. Aagaard, then the OUA’s top scorer with 63 points in 42 games, signed a contract with MoDo, a professional Swedish hockey team.  

At his first Olympics, Aagaard was a “practice player” for the Danish men’s hockey team. He and the other practice players ensured optimal training conditions and would compete in lieu of a player who tested positive for COVID before the tournament. 

McCrank one of three Canadian hockey officials  

Recruited to U of G by the men’s hockey team for his rookie year (2006-07), Dustin McCrank competed for the Gryphons track and field team in weight throw throughout his five years of studies.   

He won gold in 2009-10 and silver in both 2008-09 and 2010-11 in weight throw, during which time he also played on the men’s rugby team (2009-11).   

Dustin McCrank one ice during a hockey game.
Dustin McCrank officiates an ice hockey game. (Photo courtesy of Guelph Gryphons).

After graduating with an honours degree in anthropology, the three-time All-Canadian champion coached U of G’s weight throw team in 2014 and 2015.  

Originally from Haileybury, Ont., McCrank began officiating in 2006 with the Ontario Hockey Association, where he supervised two Queen’s Cup games. Starting in 2008 with the Ontario Hockey League, he conducted six league finals. In 2015, he began his extensive career with both the American Hockey League and the ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League), for which he officiated many final championship and series games, including the Canadian Hockey League/National Hockey League Top Prospects Game played in Guelph in January 2018.   

From Feb. 9 to 20, McCrank officiated the men’s hockey tournament in Beijing as a linesman, along with two Canadian referees, at the National Indoor Stadium and the Wukesong Sports Centre.