The road to the Olympics is a long one, and it starts long before the quadrennial event. It starts in schools; it starts in recreational sports; it starts in homes. Sometimes it starts in dreams that children have to ‘go for the gold’ and other times it starts when an encouraging coach says ‘you can do this’. No matter where it starts, one thing is the same, the road to the Olympics is built upon increasingly more challenging meets and tournaments that will pit the developing athlete against stronger and stronger opponents as they strive to be the best.
The Canada Games are not the Olympics, but they are one of those building blocks that athletes strive towards, that shows them how they match up to other athletes across the country. For some athletes it may be a one time experience, but for others it will be the spark that ignites their drive to push themselves harder, to dream of that next level of competition, to commit to reaching for it. The Canada Games are the country's largest domestic multisport event for young athletes. First suggested in 1924 by the secretary of the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada, Norton Crow, the idea got little support and it was not until 1962 when it was brought up once again that lawyer André Marceau took the initiative to set up a corporation of the top Canadian winter sports. In 1965 a financial agreement was signed, and the first Canada Winter Games was held in Quebec in 1967. The objectives of the games are to “encourage the development of first-rate sports facilities, to train as many young athletes as possible to international standards, to encourage competition in the provinces and territories, and to develop human resources from judges on up to director general of the Games' organizing groups.” (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canada-games-jeux-du-canada) At the end of the Games, the Centennial Cup is awarded to the province or territory that makes the greatest improvement from one Games to another.
This month’s summer games featured a total of 18 sports — including the return of lacrosse after a 36-year absence and the first-ever rugby sevens competition. Other sports include athletics, men’s baseball, basketball, canoe kayak, cycling, diving, golf, rowing, sailing, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, and wrestling. The Canada Games have played an important role in the development of some of Canada’s most successful athletes including Hayley Wickenheiser, Sidney Crosby, Mark McMorris, Cassie Campbell and Andre De Grasse to name but a few. However, all these big name athletes started out as the kid next door and north east Saskatchewan has a few of those kids next door to celebrate who were part of Team Saskatchewan these past two weeks.
Wakaw’s Marti Burechailo was part of the women’s Box Lacrosse team and Koltin Fyrk of Birch Hills was on the men’s team. Both the women’s and men’s team finished in 8th place. Carissa Norsten of Waldheim played with the women’s Rugby Sevens team which finished 7th overall, while Aberdeen’s Simon Funk was part of Saskatchewan’s men’s soccer team which finished 6th. Alex Larson competed in the men’s beach volleyball finishing 8th in the standings. Nicole Kramchynsky of Rosthern participated in the women’s discus placing 10th overall while Aberdeen’s Kyrell Sopotyk won a bronze individual medal for Team Sask in the 1500m Wheelchair Male category. Sopotyk is new to Wheelchair sports, having trained and competed for only one year after a fall while snowboarding in January of 2021 left him with a fractured T5 vertebrae. Drafted by the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League in 2016, Kyrell had his dreams built on hockey, but from his hospital room he had said he hoped to get involved in wheelchair sports and here he is one year later.
Cam Marshak of Bruno helped the men’s baseball team secure a bronze medal and Noah Opseth of Birch Hills played as part of the men’s volleyball team which brought home a gold medal after defeating Team Alberta three sets to one. It was a battle in the fourth set. Saskatchewan took the first two sets before Alberta rallied and won the third. With crowd support, the men went on to defeat Team AB 25-22 making them gold medal winners.
The Canada Summer Games wrapped up Sunday August 21st with Team Alberta being awarded the Centennial Cup for the biggest improvements since the last games. However Team Saskatchewan was right on their heels in the race for the Cup and will be just as eager at the next games.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder