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How this Canada Games athlete will juggle gymnastics and hockey in the same week

Ryan Dwyer will be competing in artistic gymnastics and men's hockey during the first week of the Canada Games on P.E.I.  (Shane Hennessey/CBC  - image credit)
Ryan Dwyer will be competing in artistic gymnastics and men's hockey during the first week of the Canada Games on P.E.I. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

Ryan Dwyer will be one of the busiest athletes at the Canada Games, competing in gymnastics and men's hockey in the same week.

The two sports were supposed to be on different weeks while the 2023 Winter Canada Games take place in P.E.I., but the 15-year-old decided he still wanted to move ahead when those schedules changed.

"Everything kind of worked out, so that's good," Dwyer said. "Unfortunately, I have to miss one hockey game. But it's cool that I get to do both still.

It's been a lot of juggling schedules, but my coaches have been supportive...it's been busy
— Ryan Dwyer, competing in men's hockey and gymnastics

"It's been a lot of juggling schedules, but my coaches have been supportive, and if I have to miss something, they're totally on board. So, it's busy."

Dwyer's mother, Louise, said busy is definitely the best way to describe it.

"I think it wasn't so much of a decision, it was just a continuous journey for him," she said.

"He started both sports at the age of four, and it just rolled from there."

Family connections

Ryan's love of both sports comes from his parents.

"I was a gymnast when I was younger, and so he started here in the pre-K program and loved it and he just continued," Louise Dwyer said.

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC

His father Gordie Dwyer played in the NHL, and is now the coach and general manager of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

He also coached the Summerside Western Capitals, the P.E.I. Rocket and the Charlottetown Islanders.

"He has been lucky with the support of so many coaches on his side," Louise Dwyer said.

"Especially with gymnastics, because it's not a team sport, he's had a little bit more leeway as far as his schedule goes ... Hockey's a bit more difficult, of course."

'A lot of compromise'

C.J. Keliher, coach of the men's artistic gymnastics team for the 2023 Canada Winter Games, said the coaches have also had to do some juggling.

"When I did find out that they were going to land on the same week, I certainly had a bit of a moment of panic," Keliher said.

"But I figured if someone could do it, Ryan would probably be the best candidate.

Submitted by Louise Dwyer
Submitted by Louise Dwyer

"I think it's taken a lot of compromise ...  It's been a collaborative effort, and really pretty seamless."

Keliher said both coaches had to agree to Dwyer's schedule during the Games. He'll miss one session of gymnastics training for a hockey game, and one hockey game for the team gymnastics competition.

And if it comes down to it, hockey will take precedence.

He is certainly a leader by example in that he is a very hard worker. He always gets his work done
—C.J. Keliher, men's artistic gymnastics coach 

"If his hockey team is in a playoff situation, then he's going to have to miss out on individual all around finals if he does qualify for that," Keliher said.

"He understands, and I understand, and we accept that ... we're just pleased to be able to do something so supportive of Ryan and for him to be able to achieve something so incredible."

Keliher said any concessions have been worth it.

"He is certainly a leader by example in that he is a very hard worker. He always gets his work done," Keliher said.

"He knows that he doesn't have as much time in the gym as some of the other guys because he has to accommodate his hockey schedule as well. So when he's in the gym, he's working that much harder to make sure that he gets his work done."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Team P.E.I. men's hockey head coach Luke Beck has coached Dwyer for years.

"We're going to lose Ryan for one of our games, which is obviously a big loss for our team. He's a really good player," Beck said.

"But it was an easy decision for us. We fully support Ryan in having the opportunity to do both these things, let alone do it at home, it was a no-brainer for us."

In the end, Dwyer didn't have to miss that hockey game on Monday night. As soon as he finished the team gymnastics competition in Stratford, he was driven to Summerside, arriving in time for the second period.

'Unique combination'

Keliher said he believes Ryan is also making Canada Games history.

"I don't know, but I would bet a lot of push-ups that no one has done hockey and gymnastics,"  he said.

"I am not a Canada Games trivia aficionado but I'm pretty confident that hockey and gymnastics is a very unique combination."

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC

As for Dwyer's future, the family will talk about that after the Canada Games.

"We thought he would have to make this decision probably five years ago, but it just kept going, and we've been really incredibly lucky," Louise Dwyer said.

"I think next year will be a big year for him. It's his draft year, so we'll see what happens there, and make a decision next year."

A spokesperson for the Canada Games Council said there was a long-time rule prohibiting athletes from competing in multiple sports in the same week, but it's no longer in place for the 2023 Canada Games.

Matthew Murnaghan/Canada Games Council
Matthew Murnaghan/Canada Games Council