Sherbrooke, Que.—The Telegram
Every family has its traditions. For some, it might be something as simple as the annual pilgrimage to a favourite vacation destination. For others it can be to follow in the career footsteps of a parent or sibling.
For the Delong family of St. John’s, the Canada Games are their tradition.
When Mike Delong, 18, hits the pitch with the rest of Team Newfoundland and Labrador’s boys’ soccer team Tuesday at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., he will become the fifth — yes, the fifth — member of his immediate family to have competed at the Games.
“It really doesn’t happen that often,” says Delong, the backup netminder for the boys’ side.
“My parents are excited for me and really proud of me being the last family member to go. My mom said the experience I’ll have here is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
The first of the clan to represent the province was the patriarch, Ian Delong, who ran the 3,000-metre at the 1973 Games in Burnaby, B,C,
Six years later, his wife to be, Patty, was part of the synchronized swimming team in Brandon, Man.
Neither, however, was able to collect a medal.
“We represented the province well, but we weren’t very strong in competitive swimming relative to the other provinces,” Patty says.
Almost 30 years later, their first child Allison, also hit the pool , this time with the synchro team at the 2007 Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon.
And at the most recent Summer Games prior to this one, 2009 in Prince Edward Island, Allison was back again, this time as part of a bronze-medal winning women’s four rowing crew. There, she was joined by her younger sister Kylie, who was part of the girls soccer team that finished sixth overall.
“We’re a really athletic family and sports has always been a big part of our life,” says Patty.
“The kids have excelled in team sports and they’ve grown a lot from that, as my husband and I did too, so we really encouraged them to do the same.
Patty says Mike, who also played baseball and hockey prior to focusing on soccer, decided he was going to one day compete at the Games a few years ago.
“He actually sat down to figure out the age groups, to see which one would best fit his so that he could compete,” she says.
“He was a good soccer player and he said if he did not make that soccer team, he was going to be looking at another sport that he could compete in. He had his mind made up that this was something he wanted to do.
Patty figures that when Mike heard his older sisters talk about their experience at the Games, their enthusiasm was infectious.
“He’s played in national tournaments for soccer and baseball, but the Canada Games was something a little bit more that he really wanted to be part of.”
So before leaving St. John’s this past Saturday, Mike got some advice from Kylie, who, coincidentally was also coached by Mike Power.
In addition to advising him to stay mentally prepared and keep his head in the game, even if he is playing second fiddle to star keeper Thomas Pieroway, Kylie told him to soak in all the Games have to offer, on and off the field of play.
And so far?
“It’s unbelievable,” says Mike, who will join the Mount Allison men’s team in AUS play when he starts his first year of university this fall. “Just the atmosphere walking around the athletes’ village, there’s so much excitement.”
Mike won’t be the only Delong in Sherbrooke this week; both Patty and Allison are flying up to cheer on the soccer team and the rest of Team NL.
“We’re hoping to check out all the other sports, too, “ says Patty. “Allson is really interested in going to the rowing events, and I want to see some girls’ basketball. We’re going to go from venue to venue, we want to take it all in, not just the soccer.”
The boys soccer team doesn’t start play until Tuesday afternoon when they meet Saskatchewan at Bishop’s University. But there are a number of Team NL athletes who will begin competition today.
In addition to a large number of track and field athletes starting, the boys and girls beach volleyball teams each play a pair of games, platform diving gets underway at McGill University in Montreal, and road cycling athletes will take part in the individual time trials.
Girls’ basketball, triathlon and rowing starts Tuesday.