It was the end of August, 1998 when I laced on my figure skates
for my first speed skating practice. The air was cool and damp
on the ice surface at the Canada Games Centre as I glided on
the ice to join the small group of skaters at centre ice. After
a couple of practices, I decided to stick with this new sport
so that I could build up my strength for figure skating. Little
did I expect that this sport would lead me to compete at the
1999 Canada Winter Games.
At the end of October, I finally skated on my first pair of
speed skates. They were a lot different from my figure skates
but, after a few bumps and bruises, I learned to skate on them
quite comfortably. After Christmas, we started training even
harder as the Games tryouts were getting nearer. We trained everyday,
either on or off the ice and sometimes even both. There were
many early morning practices and many laps around the ice and
Canada Games Centre track. These strenuous activities sometimes
caused us to complain, but also brought our team together and
helped us learn more about each other. By the Games, we had discovered
each other's strengths and weaknesses and, because of this, we
learned to appreciate each other. We were a "real team".
At last, the time had come. The first week of the Canada Games
was over and it was my turn to fulfill my dream. The first stop
was the accreditation centre. Our team marched in, equipped
with our new coat, pants and matching backpacks. It was very
exciting when I saw my name along with the word "athlete"
written on my accreditation pass. I think that at that moment
the thought that I was a part of this national sporting event
finally kicked in for me.
After this, we loaded onto a waiting bus and headed towards
the Athletes Village. The village consisted of 11 bunkhouses
adjacent to Herdman High School, which contained the food services
and lounge area for the athletes. When we arrived, I learned
that myself and Kathryn Sparrow, the two youngest members of
our team, would be sharing a room together for the next week.
The rooms were small but very cozy. Once we were settled away,
it was like a home away from home.
I decided that it was about time to test the food services
area. I had heard from some friends that participated in the
Games during the first week that the food was delicious. I soon
found out that what they told me was absolutely the truth. There
was an assortment of everything you could want including some
great desserts. I realized that we were going to be treated
Everything was going beautifully until I remembered one small
detail- the competition! Our first races started on Monday.
During the bus ride to Stephenville, everyone remained completely
silent. We all realized that we would be racing against speed
skaters from Quebec and Ontario who were North American and even
world champions! My biggest fear was that I would get in the
way and ruin their chances of attaining their goals. For some
of them, speed skating was their life and I did not want to interfere
with their dreams.
The first race was the most difficult but I tried to remain
calm. I must admit, however, that it was quite a relief when
that race was over. I had been lapped twice in my race but that
is what we were told to expect. I was actually quite pleased
in my performance and I was even more pleased when our times
were posted. I had taken six seconds off of what was previously
my best time at that distance! For me, this was a huge accomplishment.
These good results kept happening all week long, both for me
and my teammates. Everyone of us achieved at least two personal
bests out of the six races that we were a part of. Many of the
coaches commended us on how much we had improved over such a
short period of time.
Our time at the village was also very memorable. We were
able to meet athletes from all over Canada, including some people
from our own Newfoundland team. Every night there was some special
event to attend including concerts at Margaret Bowater Park and
a Video Dance on the last night of the Games. It was also a lot
of fun to go to go to the other sport venues in our spare time
to watch the other sports. Needless to say, throughout our whole
time spent there, we were never bored!
The last leg of our experience ended on a more emotional note.
All of the athletes who participated in the various sports at
the Games packed into the Annex to get lined up for the closing
ceremonies. One of my most memorable moments was walking out
behind the Newfoundland flag with the crowd in the Centre standing
on their feet and cheering wildly for all of us. I have never
been more proud to be a Newfoundlander and Canadian. We were
even more excited when it was announced that we had won the Jack
Pelech Award for the team exhibiting the most sportsmanship and
competitive spirit. The rest of the ceremony was beautiful and
I, along with many others, shed a few tears.
When the torch was extinguished, it suddenly dawned on me
that my Games experience was over. As I think about it more and
more, I realize that my experience at the Games will never really
come to a close. I have memories that will never be forgotten
and friends that will last a lifetime. As well, my hometown of
Corner Brook will always feel a great deal of pride that comes
with hosting such an event in the marvellous way that it did.
The Canada Games will truly leave a legacy not only in my heart
but also the hearts of all of us who experienced this fantastic