‘It’s just such an honour’

Beach volleyball star Vermette Manitoba’s flag-bearer for Canada Summer Games

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When Erika Vermette found out she’d be leading a herd of Manitobans at the upcoming Canada Summer Games , it brought tears to her eyes.

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When Erika Vermette found out she’d be leading a herd of Manitobans at the upcoming Canada Summer Games , it brought tears to her eyes.

Nearly 400 Manitoban athletes will compete at the Games in Ontario’s Niagara region, and Vermette will be their provincial flag-bearer. The beach volleyball star from Morris, Man., joked she had no trouble keeping the news under wraps and beamed with pride during the big reveal Tuesday morning at the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

“I feel like especially in the past two years, it’s been so long with the pandemic and so much hard work has been put into it… for not competing,” said Vermette, 21. “You were just training and trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel and you didn’t really know where that was. So, now to actually be nominated the flagbearer… it’s just such an honour.”

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Erika Vermette, is beaming after being announced as Canada Summer Games opening ceremony flag bearer.

Vermette is part of the province’s 370-athlete delegation set to compete at the 2022 Canada Summer Games from Aug. 6 – 21. The event was originally set for last summer, but was postponed owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the first edition of the Canada Summer Games since Manitoba played host in 2017, where the province racked up 42 medals and finished sixth overall. Age restrictions have also been bumped up, allowing the same cohort of athletes that would’ve been eligible last summer to compete this year.

“When we first learned about the postponement, you definitely felt for those athletes that were at that highest age tier and you thought maybe their chance had gone away,” said Team Manitoba’s Chef de Mission, Drew Todd. “The ability that the Canada Games Council extended those age categories to keep those athletes involved, it’s tremendous to give them that opportunity.”

Todd said younger Team Manitoba members could learn a lot from Vermette this summer since she’s already lived away from home and just wrapped up her second year of eligibility with the University of British Columbia’s women’s volleyball team.

“She can pass on that knowledge to some of our younger athletes that are not quite accustomed to the level of high-performance sport, working with the performance staff and get them fully ready for what it’s like to take that next step in their own journeys,” said Todd.

Away from the sands of the beach volleyball court at Canada Games Park, just south of Brock University’s main campus, Eric Dupre of Shaftesbury High School looks poised to swim his way to the podium.

The 17-year-old cleaned house at the ManSask Summer Long Course Provincial Championships in July, finishing first in the 200 and 800-metre freestyle. In addition, he placed second in the 400 and 1500-metre freestyle along with the 200-metre butterfly event.

While Dupre has made it look easy in the pool, he admitted the 2022 season came with some challenges. He started working with a new coach and had to get back in the swing of things as it was mostly dryland training before they could actually get in the water.

“It’s been hard, but I pushed through and I’m in a good place right now,” he said.

The Manta Swim Club product hopes the early morning practices will pay off in a big way. He also sees the upcoming competition as an opportunity to impress university scouts.

“I kind of just have expectations for myself, I don’t really care much what other people think,” said Dupre. “It’s just me, my coach and my parents that basically I’m swimming for… it’s not a ton of pressure.”

The past two years have been filled with uncertainty for young athletes such as Vermette, Dupre and many more across the country. But the 2022 Canada Games will be a chance to measure themselves against the best Canada has to offer on its grandest youth sports stage.

“I think, just from how hard I’ve worked ever since I was a kid, it’s gotten me places and this is just very rewarding and inspiring,” said Vermette. “I’m just so touched and I’m so happy that I can represent all these great athletes, it’s amazing.”

Gavin.Axelrod@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: Gavin77axe

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