Outfielder Heidi Sullivan (front) of Flatrock and infielder Rebecca Maher of Petty Harbour, members of Newfoundland and Labrador’s female softball team, sign the wall upon arrival at the Canada Games athletes village in Sherbrooke, Que. Thursday. — Submitted photo
A complement of 200 Newfoundland and Labrador athletes, coaches, managers and mission staff arrived Thursday in Sherbrooke, Que., site of the 2013 Canada Summer Games, which officially open today.
They had a small, but important, welcoming committee.
Michelle Healy, this province’s chef de mission, along with assistant chef (high performance) Rod Snow, have been in Quebec preparing for the athletes’ arrival since Tuesday.
Healey had a chance to talk to a number of athletes and so far, all the feedback has been positive.
“They were really pleased with the whole flight plan, and they just enjoyed what they called an amazing meal experience,” said Healey.
“Usually it’s food, accommodations and travel that you hear the most challenges
with the first day that a host is trying to deliver the Games, so I think Sherbrooke’s done a pretty good job in terms of being ready.”
Today, the athletes will have their first chance to practise at their respective venues, with the opening ceremonies set for tonight. Competition in most sports starts on Saturday, the rest on Sunday.
First-week sports include baseball, boys’ basketball, mountain biking, sailing, girls’ soccer, girls’ softball, swimming, tennis, wrestling and boys and girls volleyball.
In terms of the province’s medal hopefuls in the first week, Healey says there are several athletes and teams to watch, including swimmer Owen Daly, who will be the province’s flagbearer at tonight’s opening ceremony.
“He’s a medal hopeful; women’s soccer gets underway early in the week and they’re another team that is identified to potentially do really well. And we feel we have some medal potential in wrestling.
“If we can get the first one, that helps everybody relax and compete and do what they need to do to have their best performances.”
This is Healey’s second Games as chef de mission, having served in the same capacity at the 2011 Winter Games in Halifax. One of the perks of being the chef, she says, is being able to take in a variety of sports.
“It’s almost like the Olympics where there’s a lot of sports played at a high level that we don’t see every day in our province.
“It’s fun to watch sailing, and we’ve got triathlon, road cycling, and mountain biking, sports that are not often delivered in a spectator fashion in our local environment.”
She adds it’s also a treat to watch other members of the mission staff, many of who come from a single-sports background, “become major fans of multiple sports by the end of the week.”
The week ahead promises to be a busy one for Healey and her staff as they “fix problems, provide solutions, and generally support” the team as a whole, but she says the individual sports coaches and managers deserve a tip of the hat as well.
“So many of them have already coached at nationals, and now they’re stepping into this Games environment, so it’s a whole lot of new logistics and distractions thrown on their plate when they’re trying to best manage their athletes to compete at their highest level.”
There are 4,200 athletes from across Canada competing in 20 different sports over 16 days at the 2013 Games, scattered across 20 venues in Sherbrooke and its surrounding area. Bishop’s University and the Universite de Sherbrooke are hosting most of the events, with nearby lakes, parks, stadiums and facilities providing the other venues.
The Universite de Sherbrooke’s football stadium will host the opening ceremonies.
At the last Canada Summer Games, held in Prince Edward Island in 2006, Newfoundland and Labrador won six medals, four silver and two bronze.
Ontario led the way at the 2009 Games in P.E.I., winning a total of 202 medals. British Columbia finished with 144, while Quebec had 145.
There are a variety of ways to stay on top of Team NL’s results at the Games over the next two weeks. There will be regular updates to the Rant n’ Roar newsletter at teamnl.ca, with more information to be found at facebook.com/teamnl and by following the team on Twitter @gamesteamnl.
Telegram Sports Editor Robin Short is following Team NL through the first week of the Games. You can follow him on Twitter at @telyrobinshort.
With files from the Canadian Press