Charlottetown, P.E.I. -
Ryan Brockerville had felt the weight of expectation during the week and he carried that load to the start line of the men's 3,000-metre steeplechase Thursday at the Canada Summer Games in Charlottetown. P.E.I.
But at the starter's gun, he jettisoned that cargo and then ran, hurdled and splashed his way to a silver medal, the first for Newfoundland and Labrador in the second week of the Games and third overall.
"I was really, really nervous. I mean the week's gone well for me ... I've also qualified for the 1,500-metre (final), so I have reason to feel good," said the 20-year-old from Marystown.
"But I was feeling the nerves heading into this."
As it turned out, Brockerville's was one of three silver medals won by Newfoundlanders at the Games on Thursday. Erica Noonan, an 18-year-old from Stephenville, won two silver medals in SWAD (swimmmers with a disability) at the CARI Aquatic Centre on Thursday evening.
But as Brockerville prepared to Race Thursday afternoon, Newfoundland was still hankering for a medal.
Going into these Games, Brockerville, who had also won silver in the steeplechase at the 2008 national junior track and field championships, was seen as one of the province's strongest medal hopes. So as the schedule for the second week of the Games reached its fourth day, with nary a podium finish for Newfoundland over that stretch, he was aware of the expectations. That, and whatever pressure he built up within himself, combined to leave him a little edgy and a whole lot anxious.
"Yeah, going into this race, of my God, I've never felt so nervous ... and then they held us at the line for a long time (as officials made a decision on a late entry), so that added to it.
"But when the gun went off ..."
As with most runners, Brockerville's butterflies started to flutter away and the knots in his stomach loosened up as soon as he and the others started to move away from the line. But as it became evident blustery conditions at the UPEI Alumni Complex were going to turn it into a tactical race, he felt a slight twinge of a new concern.
"It was a tight pack. Nobody really wanted (go out front) to cut the wind. Nobody wanted expend that kind of energy," said Brockerville, who nevertheless eventually became part of a group that separated itself from the rest of the field.
He moved into third place and then found himself in second heading into the last lap. With a large contingent of fellow Newfoundland and Labrador athletes and other provincial supporters cheering him on from behind the fence at the water jump - "Oh yeah, I could hear them and it felt good," he said - increased his lead over third-place finisher Mattias Wolter of Nova Scotia and Quebec's Stephane Colle down the stretch even though he felt they may have been catching him.
CIS cross-country champion Matt Brunsting of Ontario won the race in a time of nine minutes and 14.6 seconds. Brockerville's time was 9:20.65, almost five seconds ahead of the third-place Wolter.
Brockerville has another shot at a medal today as one of 12 finalists in the men's 1,500 metres. However, he wonders how the energy he expended in winning the steeplechase will affect him just a day later.
"It (the 1,500 metres) will be a lot more difficult. And it's not really my race, this (the steeplechase) was it, but whatever happens will happen, and you know we will do our best."
The "we" refers to him and Patrick O'Grady of St. John's, who will also race in the 1,500-metres this afternoon. However, Brockerville doesn't know if he and O'Grady, who is his roommate for the Games, will be able to do much to help each other.
"It's been a long week for both of us, so I don't know if we can accomplish anything that way, but like I've been saying, anything can happen.
"But today, right now, I'm going to enjoy this, especially because my family is here, which was a great experience, a great thrill. My mom and dad have never seem me in a big competition before, had never seen me at a national event. So to have them come here all the way from Newfoundland, makes it extra special."