Hundreds of young New Brunswick athletes travel to Ontario to compete against the country’s best at the Canada Summer Games.
Team New Brunswick, which has 346 athletes, gathered at the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport on Friday morning to board a charter flight for the games.
The Canada Games, hosted this year in Niagara, Ontario, will feature more than 5,000 young athletes competing inter-provincially in 18 different sports. The competition begins on Saturday and will continue until August 21.
Sydney Arseneault of Saint John was preparing to leave for her second Canada Games to play on the softball team. She competed in badminton at the 2018 Games in Red Deer, Alberta.
“It’s next level and you have to improve your game to be on par with them or even compete. It’s fun to see how you perform against everyone,” she said.
Arseneault, 18, said her teammates were both nervous and excited as they prepared to board their flight. For some of them, it will be their first time on a plane.
“Everyone is all together, you stay in a village, it’s an amazing experience,” she said.
“It was surreal”
The New Brunswick delegation also includes 80 coaches, managers and technical staff, as well as 20 team members.
The province will host athletes in track and field, baseball, beach volleyball, box lacrosse, canoeing and kayaking, cycling, golf, mountain biking, rowing, rugby sevens, sailing, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, triathlon, volleyball and struggle.
Matt Whipple is heading into his first games as coach of the softball team.
“It’s been such a long process that I think it’s been surreal for a long time. I know they’re excited to get started,” he said.
Whipple said the softball tryout process for the games began two years ago, with the final team selected from a pool of about 70 athletes. The team has been training together for about a year and attended the Canadian Championships last week to prepare.
‘I can not wait’
For Auyouba Kanara, representing New Brunswick in soccer at the Canada Games has been a goal for several years. He is originally from the Ivory Coast and now lives in Memramcook.
“I’m really lucky to be part of it. I can’t wait,” said the 16-year-old.
“I’m really excited to be part of this team. I’ve been waiting for it, I’ve worked on it and I’m really happy to finally be where I want to be.”
Ben Soke, a Fredericton pitcher on the baseball team, said he’s excited about their chances of qualifying in his first games when New Brunswick takes on Quebec.
“I think it will be bigger than we expected,” he said.
These Canada Summer Games were originally scheduled to take place last year, but were postponed due to COVID-19. Therefore, the Canada Winter Games will take place in less than a year. They will be hosted by Prince Edward Island with a few events at Crabbe Mountain in New Brunswick.
The Canada Games are set to return to New Brunswick for the third time in 2029.