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Medals and memories at Canada Summer Games

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Summer is a time when Winnipeg welcomes many casual visitors who come to see family or friends, to experience tourist attractions or to attend festivals.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/07/2017 (2012 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Summer is a time when Winnipeg welcomes many casual visitors who come to see family or friends, to experience tourist attractions or to attend festivals.

But there is nothing casual about 4,000 visitors arriving in Winnipeg throughout the next two weeks. They come with intense intentions.

Winnipeg has been their destination, their dream, since it was announced in April, 2013, that this city would host the Canada Summer Games in 2017.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Team Manitoba flag bearer Emma Gray

These athletes have competed tenaciously for the right to come to Winnipeg, winning a series of preliminary competitions that eliminated all but the best.

They come as representatives of their home provinces, an honour that adds to the weight of the uniforms on their backs. While their shared personal goal is to leave Winnipeg bearing a medal that confirms their stature among the elite, they also want to do well by the people back home.

In a way, the athletes who have travelled to Winnipeg are already winners, even before the Games begin with lavish opening ceremonies on Friday at Bell MTS Place.

To get here, they summoned the discipline to train to an elite level of competitive excellence. Endless hours of practice often meant sacrificing social opportunities and time that could have been spent studying, earning money or relaxing.

Why do they bother? It’s not for the money; their bank accounts are unlikely to rival those of the young millionaires who play for the Winnipeg Jets. And it isn’t for fame: most people on the street who aren’t parents or siblings of Games athletes couldn’t name any of the competitors taking part in these events.

To be sure, many amateur athletes eventually find rewards other than fame and riches. Their exceptional skills can garner scholarships at post-secondary schools, and some will represent Canada at the next Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

There are also less tangible rewards that enrich the later lives of people who invest their youth in high-level athletics. To learn to put the team ahead of yourself, to work when you don’t feel like it, to persevere after losses, to win with grace: these are attributes that stay with athletes after they hang up the cleats and put away the paddles, racquets and balls, attributes that bolster their lives in families, workplaces and social groups.

Throughout the next two weeks, the young athletes will take selfies, thousands of selfies, but they need not. They will always remember with picture-sharp clarity the summer of 2017 in Winnipeg.

If that seems like an exaggeration, try an experiment. Ask someone with grey hair about their sporting achievements back in the day, and watch the sparkle return to their aged eyes as they describe, as if it were yesterday, the time they batted clean-up and walloped a homer that won the game, or recall how they finished a marathon on blistered feet, or reminisce about the lifelong bond they formed with their years-ago soccer teammates.

The thrill of competing in athletic spectacle burns itself into our memories, as it will for the current generation of athletes whose turn it is at the starting line.

Let the Games begin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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