November 24, 2017

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Many stories to be told at this year's Summer Games

Even before young Canadian athletes take to the fields, the gyms, the sand and the water, there is already an abundance of stories coming out of the 2017 Canada Summer Games.

On Friday night, thousands flowed into Bell MTS Place for the opening ceremony and 16-year-old Sydney Kennedy was among the masses. When the Nova Scotian hits the soccer pitch for her first match, she won’t be the first Canada Summer Games athlete in the family.

Her grandfather, 78-year-old Howard Speers, was a player-coach for the Nova Scotia softball team at the inaugural Canada Summer Games in 1969.

Speers, along with Sydney’s father, Frank Kennedy, 51, recognize not many families of athletes have such a historic connection to the Games.

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Even before young Canadian athletes take to the fields, the gyms, the sand and the water, there is already an abundance of stories coming out of the 2017 Canada Summer Games.

On Friday night, thousands flowed into Bell MTS Place for the opening ceremony and 16-year-old Sydney Kennedy was among the masses. When the Nova Scotian hits the soccer pitch for her first match, she won’t be the first Canada Summer Games athlete in the family.

John Woods / The Canadian Press</p><p>Prime Minister Justin Trudeau high-fives athletes at the Canada Summer Games opening ceremony Friday.</p></p>

John Woods / The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau high-fives athletes at the Canada Summer Games opening ceremony Friday.

Her grandfather, 78-year-old Howard Speers, was a player-coach for the Nova Scotia softball team at the inaugural Canada Summer Games in 1969.

Speers, along with Sydney’s father, Frank Kennedy, 51, recognize not many families of athletes have such a historic connection to the Games.

"It’s really exciting," Frank said. "The exposure you get from the Canada Summer Games is just great. It’s a pretty high-profile event."

The exposure may not be as necessary for Sydney as some of her teammates. Last August, she played on the Canada under-15 women’s soccer team in Florida. She must have impressed the right people, because the 16-year-old recently committed to go to the University of Florida in two years to join the Florida Gators soccer team.

● ● ●

The Spilman family, from a small community in the Stanley area of New Brunswick, about 33 kilometres north of Fredericton, will have three generations of men at the Games.

It’s a special experience for 69-year-old Byron, whose grandson Cole is a shortstop on the New Brunswick softball team. Cole’s father, Troy, also happens to be the coach and a former Games athlete himself.

"I didn’t really appreciate it with Troy as much as I’m appreciating this right now," Byron said. "It’s a pretty special moment and in my later years, it’s even more satisfying."

For the Spilmans, sports run in the family, with Troy playing on the Nova Scotia basketball team at the 1986 Games.

When asked if he had any advice for his son based on his past experience as an athlete, Troy said: "Enjoy the sights, understand what you’ve accomplished and realize how big the world is."

When Troy speaks of his son playing in the Games, a mixture of emotion and pride takes over his face.

"I don’t know if I can put it into words," he continued. "It’s surreal, it’s special, it’s a privilege."

● ● ●

When 16-year-old Tanner Boyle takes to the diamond with Team Manitoba, there’s going to be no shortage of support in the crowd.

The shortstop from Portage la Prairie has 12 family members who’ve come from all over Canada to see him play.

All of them will be in the stands, wearing black t-shirts designed to look like jerseys, with his name and number on the back. For them, the Games are a family affair.

"It’s been wonderful," his mother, Nicki, said. "He said: ‘Mom, I’ve never been so nervous for a game in all my life.’"

For Tanner, getting to this point is the culmination of a two-year experience, which involved giving up playing hockey to focus his efforts on baseball.

"We’re all just really, really proud of him," added his uncle, Lee. "It took a lot of hard work for him to get here."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 8:04 AM CDT: Photo added.

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