Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A great Games for Swan River

Big accomplishments for athletes, volunteers

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THE closing ceremonies at the AG Grounds Saturday afternoon in Swan River marked the end a successful 2012 Manitoba Summer Games.

Thousands of athletes, fans, coaches and volunteers gathered as the final stamp was put on the weeklong event that began July 15. The farewell paid tribute to the hard work displayed by the more than 1,600 athletes and 1,200 volunteers, all of which contributed to an incredible week of elite competition and sportsmanship.

"We've received many compliments and it all comes down to our volunteer group," said Paula Norman, Co-chair of the Games. "We're really, really ecstatic on how the week turned out and we just hope that everyone had a memorable experience."

A memorable experience indeed not only for the athletes but for a town that was thrown curve balls every which way by Mother Nature all week long.

Let's recap: Torrential rainfalls, tornado warnings and a local state of emergency were just some of the obstacles facing this campaign.

Heavy rain, as much as 19 centimetres, led to the cancellation of baseball on Day 1. Participants in golf were forced to play the front nine twice because the back half of the course was flooded. On Wednesday night Swan River Mayor Glen MacKenzie issued a local state of emergency due to a faulty sewage lift station, preventing many from being able to shower in nearby hotels.

However, no hurdle proved big enough, as kids were seen smiling and laughing as they gave it their all in the province's largest ongoing multi-sport event.

"It's been an amazing week," said an emotional MacKenzie. "Everything that happened, happened, but the Games continued on time and the focus was always on making sure athletes and the kids had a good time, and they did as their spirit of sportsmanship prevailed throughout the week."

All in all a total of 363 medals were given out to athletes from seven regions over 10 different events. Team Winnipeg Gold lead the medal race notching an impressive 90 medals: 37 gold, 32 silver and 21 bronze.

"The athletes are amazing," said MacKenzie. "I walked with two young girls on the golf course and at 13 they can hit the ball twice as far as I can."

And with every medal came a lasting memory that will surely last a lifetime.

"We dreamed of this since Day 1 and we've always wanted the gold," said Alec Bernier, reflecting on his gold-medal victory with Winnipeg Gold Under-16 basketball team. "I've never won a gold before in my life so this is very new to me."

Medal or not, teams could still reflect on time well spent.

"It's been a great experience for the guys," said Jeremey Wielenga, head coach of the Westman U-16 male basketball team that lost in the bronze-medal game to Team Central. "They've really enjoyed their time here. Everything from getting down to the athlete's village, getting to watch some other events, it's been an overall great experience."

There were two additional awards given out at the closing ceremonies. Team Norman received the Larry Desjardins award given to the team that displays the highest level of sportsmanship throughout the Games and Team Westman got the J.A. Ernst award, a recognition of how hard they rooted for one another.

Winkler will be hosting the 2014 Manitoba Winter Games. Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2012 C5

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