The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
The morning rush-hour was just beginning to ease when Adrian Dudzicki hopped on his beat-up bicycle and pedalled towards Downsview Park in North York.
This was his daily ritual, driving snow or scorching sun, cycling 15 minutes to his second home on the courts of the National Squash Academy, where he’d earned a spot on Canada’s training squad. It was one of the things he enjoyed most, he said in an online interview, breathing fresh air as part of a training regimen he hoped would lead to the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.
He only made half the trip on Wednesday morning.
As he rolled through the intersection of Sheppard Avenue West and Yukon Lane around 9:30 a.m., a 1992 BMW 325 struck and killed him.
Mr. Dudzicki was 23.
Police have charged the driver, Aleksey Aleksev, 20, with dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death.
One of the first people on the scene was Gary Waite, director of sales and membership at the academy. He saw the bike, then the rackets, then the familiar figure and began calling members of Toronto’s tight-knit squash community to inform them of the death of the promising player known affectionately as ‘the night watchmen.’ “When he first came to Toronto from Ottawa two years ago, he had no money, no means, so for the first six weeks he actually lived at the club,” said Jamie Nicholls, a friend and general manager of the academy, explaining the nickname. “He was kind of the patron saint of the squash academy. He was the most dedicated, committed guy you’d ever met.”
Born in Italy, Mr. Dudzicki grew up in Ottawa. By the standards of most professionals, he was a late-comer to the sport. At age 14, after finishing a season of minor hockey, he and his father decided to pick up the game on the same day, according to an online interview with squash coach Barb Cooper in April.
“It was a battle, it was really competitive and we would just fight to the death,” he said in the interview, posted on helpmysquashgame.com. “From there it just sky-rocketed.”
After graduating from Ottawa University, he set his sights on a pro squash career, an odd career path for someone of his background. He was a good junior player, but not a great one, according to those in the sport. And his modest upbringing didn’t set him up well for the cash-starved life of a professional squash player.
“Most people in this sport come from means. He did not,” said Mr. Nicholls. “Even guys in top-50 in world are just breaking even. Only guys in top-10 and –20 are earning much. He had a long way to go. He was definitely not in it for the money.”
After six weeks of living at the academy, he rented a nearby apartment with some students and began his six-day-a-week rides to and from the academy. His talents soared and his world ranking plummeted, from around 300th two years ago to a low of 136th last year (ninth in Canada) after winning the Ontario provincial championship. He took off the summer of 2013 to replenish his bank account working at a landscaping company, then returned to full-time training in October.
“He worked harder than anyone,” said Mr. Nicholls. “He wanted to get in the top-100. His focus was the Pan-Am Games in 2015. That would be the push. Everyone here is trying to make those games and he would have been in definite contention.”
Instead he is the 54th cyclist or pedestrian fatality on Toronto streets this year, the highest figure since 2009. Police are asking for any witnesses to come forward.
Condolences flooded in to the academy from all over the world, said Mr. Nicholls.
“The entire Canadian squash community is totally numb,” said Squash Canada President Lolly Gillen in a statement, “and it will take considerable time to recover from the effects of this tragedy.”
In a statement, Bal Gosal, federal Minister of State (Sport), offered condolences on behalf of the government “for the loss of a gifted young athlete.”
The Family and friends will be celebrating his life on Tuesday November 26, 2013 at the Kelly Funeral Home Barrhaven Chapel, 3000 Woodroffe Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario. 613-823-4747. Visitation will take place between 9 am and 3 pm followed by a Funeral Service in the Chapel. Everyone is welcome to a reception following the service at the Ottawa Athletic Club, 2525 Lancaster Road. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Urban Squash at the NSA following link:https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/startup.aspx?eventid=135963