Michael Lieffers at a men's exhibition basketball game in Shenzhen, China during the 2011 Summer Universiades.
Michael Lieffers wishes Serbia had not made good on their second chance.
The Huskies men’s basketball forward represented Canada at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China this summer. Canada won silver after losing 68-55 to Serbia in the final — a team they had beaten in round robin play earlier in the tournament.
“We would have liked gold,” said Lieffers. “Unfortunately, we came out with the silver medal.”
In the final, Canada was ahead by two points at half but after Serbia pulled ahead by nine in the third quarter, Canada could not regain the lead.
“Both games were really tough,” said Lieffers. “The first game we played a whole 40 minutes. The second game we lost ourselves after the second half and couldn’t pull through.”
The six-foot-eight forward from Saskatoon believes he could have made a difference against Serbia.
“In the final I didn’t get so much playing time but in the first game against Serbia I think I played about 30 minutes,” said Lieffers. “I played really well. My coach actually told me after that game that I was the spark that won us the game.
“It was the coach’s decision and it’s in the past now.”
Of course, Lieffers has no hard feelings about this and greatly valued his time with the Canadian team.
“Playing with the guys from Canada who have all played Canadian Interuniversity Sport, you learn all these little things. Coming back here to the Huskies it is going to be my last year and I’m hoping it’s going to be my best.”
Lieffers definitely has some interesting stories to share with his teammates in Saskatoon.
“Probably ten times a day, if not more, people would take photos of us — especially rolling with more than one tall guy, like with a couple guys over 6-8 and some 7 footers,” he said.
“One day, our friend’s dad from the team was taking a picture of us and it created this frenzy. All of a sudden what was one guy turned into about 35 to 40 people taking pictures of us. So we started taking pictures of them taking pictures of us.”
Huskies track and field athletes Andrew Smith and Taryn Suttie, who represented Canada at the games in the shot put competition, found themselves celebrities in the street as well.
“It was pretty crazy. I’ve never been in so many pictures in my life,” said Smith.
“We were the odd balls out,” added Suttie.
Unfortunately, they didn’t share Lieffers’s success on the podium.
“I placed ninth but didn’t really throw my best,” said Suttie, who threw 15.30 metres. She is the current CIS record holder in the event with a distance of 15.72 metres.
Smith, who also holds the CIS record in shot put with 18.48 metres, only threw 17.22 metres and was eliminated from the qualification round.
“I threw quite a bit short of my personal best,” he said.
Other Huskies in the games included men’s soccer players Josh Northey and Jerson Barandica-Hamilton, women’s soccer player Daniela Fuenzalida and women’s basketball players Jill Humbert and Katie Miyazaki. Lisa Thomaidis, the Huskies women’s basketball coach, led Canada’s women’s squad.
Canada finished ninth in men’s soccer, fifth in women’s soccer and sixth in women’s basketball.
“China did a tremendous job of hosting. It really was an Olympic-calibre event,” said Thomaidis. “I’ve been to World Championships, Pan-Am Games and this by far was the most well-organized and well run multi-sport event.”
The Canadian women finished 15th out of 16 teams in the 2009 University Games, so they knew the tournament was going to be tough this year.
“The calibre of competition was just phenomenal and to finish sixth at a competition like that is really an over-achievement.”
photo: Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography