Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Eh, oh, Manitoba go

After Vancouver 2010, young athletes pumped to compete in Portage

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At 10, Simon Giasson is practically a veteran in his sport.

Competing in cross-country skiing for five years now, Giasson has ice in his veins when it comes to his plans for the 2010 Power Smart Manitoba Games, which open Monday at Birch Winter Sport Club, Portage la Prairie and Southport.

Giasson is one of about 1,600 athletes ages 10 to 21 competing in the week-long multi-sport Games, which include 12 events. The athletes are also part of teams representing the seven regions in Manitoba -- Central, Eastman, Interlake, Norman, Parkland, Westman and Winnipeg.

"I hope I can do really well, but I know there's going to be a lot of kids (competing), so I'll just do my best," said Giasson, one of the youngest athletes in the Manitoba Games.

The oldest athlete in the Games is fivepin bowler Ethan Buckman of Brandon, 20, who is a member of Team Westman, and the youngest is artistic gymnast Kyle Martens of Grunthal, who turned 10 just before Christmas and is a member of Team Eastman.

"I was really excited when I heard about it (being selected for Team Winnipeg)," Giasson said. "It sounded like the Olympics a little bit with a lot of different sports.

"I'm really looking forward to meeting a lot of people and really good skiing and that it's going to be really fun."

His older sister Anais, 13, is also a member of Team Winnipeg, as cross-country skiing is a family sport for the Giasson clan.

Portage la Prairie was awarded the Games back in 2007 and about $160,000 has been spent in upgrades to many existing facilities, including new gym floors for the two gymnasiums in Portage Collegiate Institute and reverse osmosis in the Portage curling rink.

The Games will mark the debut of city's new crown jewel, the brand-new Portage Credit Union Centre. It's a sprawling, state-of-the-art facility that includes two NHL-size arenas, an aquatic centre with a wave pool and a fitness centre. The PCU Centre will be home to the opening and closing ceremonies, male and female hockey and ringette, which is making its return to the Manitoba Games for the first time since 2002.

Karina Walker, who turned 19 last Monday, is a member of the Winnipeg region's Blue ringette team and said it is her first experience in a multi-sport games.

"I think it's going to be a good experience. It's kind of like a mini-Olympics, and ringette's usually not highlighted in Manitoba that well, so it's also going to be great for our sport," Walker said. She has been selected for Team Manitoba in the belle age division (16-18) to represent the province at nationals next month in Saskatoon. She plays regularly with the Magic AA belles.

"I've gone to nationals for ringette and a week-long event is always fun," said Walker, noting some Magic players come from Oak Bluff and Sanford and so ended up on the Winnipeg Gold and Central teams. "(In the Manitoba Games) I'll actually be playing against people I normally play with because of the way the regions are divided. I'm only playing with one girl that I've been on a team with before, Ashlee Peacock, and we've been playing together since we were four years old."

Games co-chairman Jim Malenchak said he is thrilled with the impact the Games are already having on the Portage area.

"It's giving us a chance to showcase our small-town hospitality with our big-city amenities," Malenchak said. Portage is a city of about 13,000, with about 8,000 in the surrounding municipality.

"We've got a lot of good facilities. People are going to be very impressed. Everything is very close and central, so athletes will be able to go to other venues when they're not playing and view other sports," he said. "The Manitoba Games really creates an atmosphere of appreciation of sport. We're going to have a lot of people cheering good performances, just like at the Olympics. It's going to be extremely energetic. This is a lot of young people who are still very pumped from Canada's performance at the Olympics and they're all going to come and compete at a very intense level."

The athletes village is at PCI, vacated by students and teachers for the week for an early spring break. Meals will be served at the Canad Inn in one of the banquet halls.

Admission is free to all events and venues and everyone is welcome.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Young Manitobans

get chance to shine

The 2010 Power Smart Manitoba Games will be hosted by Portage la Prairie from March 7-13. The Manitoba Games follow the Olympic cycle and are often the first opportunity for young athletes from across the province to experience a multi-sport event.

Held every two years, alternating between winter and summer

These will be the 16th Manitoba Games

First time Portage la Prairie has hosted these Games

Estimated economic impact on the community: $1 million

1,600 athletes and about 1,400 coaches, managers, officials and volunteers will participate

Opening ceremonies are Sunday at 8 p.m. at PCU Centre (Island Park)

Closing ceremonies are March 13 at 2:30 p.m. at PCU Centre (Island Park)

Admission is free to all events and venues

The 2012 Power Smart Manitoba Summer Games will be held in Swan Valley

For a full schedule and results, please go online to www.manitobagames.ca

SPORTS

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS: March 8-10

Location: Southport

BADMINTON: March 11-12

Location: Southport

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING:

March 8-10

Location: Birch Winter Sport Club

CURLING: March 11-13

Location: Portage Curling Club

FIGURE SKATING:

March 8-13

Location: Centennial Arena

FIVEPIN BOWLING: March 8-10

Location: Southport

FEMALE HOCKEY: March 8-13

Location: Portage Credit Union Centre, Centennial Arena

MALE HOCKEY: March 8-13

Location: Portage Credit Union Centre, Centennial Arena

RINGETTE: March 8-13

Location: Portage Credit Union Centre, Centennial Arena

SPECIAL OLYMPICS:

March 11-12

Location: Southport

FEMALE VOLLEYBALL:

March 8-13

Location: Arthur Meighen and Crescentview schools

MALE VOLLEYBALL:

March 8-13

Location: Arthur Meighen and Crescentview schools

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 5, 2010 C5

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