The Canada Games are fast approaching and for many young athletes, this will be their first glimpse at a major athletic competition.
The games take place every two years, alternating between winter and summer. The winter games will be arriving in Red Deer, Alberta in February. As part of the festivities, the ceremonial Canada Games torch has been making its way from coast to coast before arriving in Red Deer.
The torch was lit on October 4 in Ottawa, and has been carried by ceremonial torchbearers through Halifax and Montreal, with St. Catharines being the fourth stop on the torch relay.
The torch started its journey through the city downtown and made its way to Brock University where Niagara College was providing food and beverages for spectators and participants. A musical performance was given by a local high school and guests of honour spoke about what the Canada Games meant to them.
Brock University President, Gervan Fearon focused on how the games would impact the university as several students will be eligible to compete, both in these winter games, and the upcoming summer games which will be hosted in the Niagara region in 2021.
Niagara won the bid to host back in 2017 beating out three other hopeful communities.
The Canada Games have long been seen as a stepping point for young athletes. The strictly amateur competition is often a pre-cursor to the Olympics. For athletes who have never taken part in a multi-sport competition at such a high level, the Canada Games can give them the exposure and confidence they need to take their careers further.
Many of Canada’s greatest athletes took part in the Canada games before becoming professionals. Eugenie Bouchard competed in 2009 before becoming one of Canada’s most recognizable women’s tennis players. Soccer goalkeeper, Karina Leblanc won gold with team Alberta in the 1997 games before going on to represent Canada in five FIFA women’s World Cups and two Olympics. Eight time all star, Steve Nash played basketball for Team British Columbia in 1993 before going on to a Hall-of-Fame career in the NBA.
Andre De Grasse is one of Canada’s most promising young sprinters, but before he gave Usain Bolt a run for his money at the Rio Olympics in 2016, he was competing for Team Ontario. Mark McMorris is an Olympic bronze medalist in snowboarding who got his start competing for Team Saskatchewan in 2007.
The games also manufacture hockey stars. Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Marie Phillip-Poulin, Steven Stamkos, Hayley Wickenheiser and Natalie Spooner don’t even begin to scratch the surface of players that began their careers at the Canada Games.
The games coming to Niagara is something to get excited about. Not only will it provide the region with an economic boost as athletes and spectators arrive, but it will also provide opportunities to see some of the best young athletes that Canada has to offer.
The motto of the games is “this is our moment”, this phrase applies not only to the athletes, but to the host cities. For now, all eyes are on Red Deer, but in two years, Niagara will have its turn to host the games.