WINNIPEG — As a four-time World Cup of Rugby participant and long-time pro, Rod Snow knocked heads with some of the toughest rugby players on the planet.
But on Friday, Snow was bowled over by a 15-year-old girl from Conception Bay Central.
Snow, the chef de mission for Newfoundland and Labrador’s contingent at the 2017 Canada Summer Games, was unashamedly emotional as he spoke after Angel Hiltz-Morrell’s semifinal win in women’s wrestling Friday morning, a result that guaranteed Newfoundland at least one medal at these Winnipeg Games.
“First, let me say that you have to respect that sport,” said Snow after witnessing Hiltz-Morrell’s victory by pin over national juvenile champion Sydney Lewis of Ontario.
“Wrestling is man-on-man, woman-on-woman. There’s really no place for excuses … you can’t blame referees. There is no wind or rain or anything like that.
“They really go at it, putting their physical health on the line, and it’s extremely tough mentally … I know, I wrestled a bit.
“That’s one thing. But for her to come up against a national champion who hasn’t lost, and with Newfoundland and Labrador without any medal and with almost no chances remaining, to have all that on the line and to have her do that and guarantee us a medal, it’s pretty impressive.
“There was a lot of pressure on her, but she came up spades.”
He probably shouldn’t have, but Snow was taking the province’s medal drought in Winnipeg very personally, especially with the end of the Games fast approaching —today is the last full day of competition.
“I do. It’s one medal and in the big scheme, it means a lot … you can see how I feel right now,” he said. “I know it’s really about the athletes and how they perform and improve, wherever that puts them.
“But emotionally, this is huge. For team morale, I think it was vital.
“We have expectations and that includes medals. It’s always tough to fulfil those expectations, so she’s done us a big favour.”
When asked about his being a bit overcome after Hiltz-Morrell’s win, Snow said it is rooted in Newfoundland nationalism.
“I’m a proud a Newfoundlander. And when we come to the events, we are who we are — good-natured — but there is also a little bit of a chip on our shoulder. It’s sort of the feeling that it’s us against the country, especially being held off the (medal) board.
“We know what our athletes are up against, so I’m proud of them even when they don’t win.
“But when they do, the emotions get amplified and this is one of those occasions. She (Hiltz-Morrell) is totally overcome, her teammates are totally overcome, the coaching staff is overcome and the chef for Newfoundland and Labrador is overcome, and I don’t mind that it a bit.”
But after, as he put it, “gathering” himself, Snow put things in perspective, suggesting that while the wrestling medal made his day and that of the Newfoundland and Labrador team, it doesn’t make a Games.
“This win is vital and symbolic, but it doesn’t change the fact that our medal count at the Summer Games has been continually decreasing,” he said.
“We don’t quit when the odds are against us and it was shown here today we can come up with a win, but it doesn’t change the fact we have only one medal in the Summer Games, which isn’t good enough.
“I know we are a small province, and we don’t have as much money or resources as most of the others, but that doesn’t mean our expectations shouldn’t be higher than a single medal.”