Ben Taylor didn’t pay much attention to the message Michelle Healey left on his answering machine last week.
Healey, Newfoundland and Labrador’s chef de mission for the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax next month, had a couple of questions about target shooting and wanted Taylor to call her back.
“I thought it was just going to be an interview about my sport,” said Taylor.
“But then when I called her back, she said I’d been chosen as the province’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies at the Canada Winter Games, so I was definitely honored and excited to hear that.”
These will be the first Canada Games for the 18-year Memorial University student and he’s looking forward to the experience.
“I know people who have been at Canada Games, so I have a little idea what to expect, although each of them are in different locations, so it’s hard to say what they’ll be like,” said Taylor, who was officially introduced as the opening-ceremonies flag-bearer Wednesday night during a Newfoundland and Labrador team rally at the Provincial Training Centre in St. John’s.
The rather subdued affair, which concluded after about 30 minutes with the singing of the Ode to Newfoundland, also served to reveal the team’s official uniform for the Games set for Feb. 11-27.
“Yeah, I didn’t want to give it away on the voice mail,” said Healey about contacting Taylor with the good news. “But it’s a huge honour to be selected as your province’s flag bearer.
“Ben is a quality athlete and, along with his teammates, has trained the way high performance athletes should and I think they are ready for Halifax.
“We usually want to make sure the athlete represents a high performance model, that is someone who wants to be prepared and wants to get to the next level and has to be a good ambassador of the province including being a good student. We’re really proud to have Ben and he’ll do well.”
Taylor, a Booth Memorial High School product who is studying earth sciences at MUN, is looking forward to competing and doesn’t think pressure will offer be any sort of problem.
“I’m just going to do my best and see how it turns out,” said Taylor, who is part of a seven-member shooting team.
Healey wasn’t about to go out on a limb and predict how many medals this province might come away with at the Halifax Games.
“Everyone wants a medal-count prediction,” she said with a grin, “but the reality is our athletes have been set up and trained to do wonderful things and we know there are some opportunities in places. However, we don’t want to put any pressure on people right now.
“But I think we’ll have a successful Games.
“We are training high-performance athletes. The province has invested in facilities and high-performance services so all of our teams have had access to mental, physical and nutritional training so we can send prepared and well-trained teams to these sorts of events.
“We’re in a different game altogether now.
“Our book of excuses diminishes by several pages the more infrastructure we put in place and the more opportunities that allow our high performance athletes to train.
The mission staff is now finalizing the team’s travel plans for Halifax.
“The planning for these Games has been going on for the past couple of years and as we get closer and see our final team rosters selected it definitely elevates the level of excitement for everybody,” Healey said.
Team Newfoundland and Labrador’s contingent will feature 185 athletes in 13 sports comprising 15 teams during the two weeks of competition. If you include coaches, managers, trainers and mission staff, the total rises to just over 200 people.