John Chan was “overjoyed” to find out that he had been named Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Men’s Tennis Rookie of the Year for 2013.
The 19-year-old Whistler native was undefeated in singles play prior to his loss at the OUA championship in October; but despite his success, he was shocked when he found out that he had been given such a prestigious title.
“I didn’t expect to be given such an award," said Chan from Ontario this week.
"I started to get lots of emails from friends and relatives congratulating me.”
Chan had great success in the regular season, playing two matches in the No. 2 position, three at No. 3 and two at No. 4. His only loss came in the final match of his flight, at the season-ending OUA Championships, which he lost in three gruelling sets.
“He and Vincent Chan (our No.1) player also came out top in the OUA doubles Championships, so he enjoyed success in doubles too,” said Patricia Craton, the men’s and women’s tennis head coach at Waterloo University, in an email.
That’s not all, though — Chan was also named as an OUA All Star, an award that means he is regarded as one of the six best players out of over 65 players that make up the rosters of the seven schools participating in the OUA.
“I had good results and I perform well in the on- and the off-season, which is probably why I was given the award,” said Chan.
Besides being a physically strong player, Chan also developed strong relationships with his coaches and teammates at the University of Waterloo early in the season.
“It has been Waterloo’s good fortune that John chose to come here to further his education," said Craton.
"He is friendly and outgoing. He was the only rookie on the men’s tennis team this year but you wouldn’t have known this looking at him with the rest of the team.”
Chan grew up in Whistler after emigrating from China over a decade ago and began playing tennis at age 12. Throughout high school Chan put his sporting ambitions into tennis, managing to reach the Top 10 in B.C. before he graduated from Whistler Secondary School (WSS) in June of 2012.
For Chan, juggling sports and school wasn’t always so easy.
“He struggled in the early years, but he worked hard," said Rod Thompson, one of Chan’s former teachers at WSS.
"He took all of the hard courses."
WSS is well known for having an athletic program that allows students to focus on sports while they are in school, and Chan is one of the many students that has benefitted from this program.
“The athletic program at the school really helped me learn how to balance athletics with my academics — they’re both important,” he said.
And for any students who want to pursue sports at university, Chan had this advice: “Get lots of help. It’s tough, but it’s worth it.”
He plans to continue playing tennis for Waterloo as he studies physics.
“It’s taken a lot of training and a lot of hard work, but I’m glad that I’ve kept going," said Chan.
"I would like to thank the Whistler community, my coaches, the tennis club, the school and the teachers, and lots of other people around the community who were there to help me.”