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Opinion

Shawnee Scatliff was only 10 years old when she competed as a figure skater in the inaugural Canada Winter Games in Quebec City in 1967.

She remembers the actual competition part, sure — she did take home a bronze medal for Team Manitoba, after all. But she also has vivid off-the-ice memories of what was one of the most exciting, and defining, experiences of her young life.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Shawnee Scatliff is a Mission Services Consultant for the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg and was a 10-year-old athlete during the 1967 Canada Winter Games in Quebec City for figure skating in singles and pairs. She has participated either as an athlete or volunteer in 25 Canada Summer/Winter Games since then.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Shawnee Scatliff is a Mission Services Consultant for the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg and was a 10-year-old athlete during the 1967 Canada Winter Games in Quebec City for figure skating in singles and pairs. She has participated either as an athlete or volunteer in 25 Canada Summer/Winter Games since then.

"I remember that my uniform was great — I loved my uniform," she recalls. "We had this jacket and ski pants and long toque. I think it was the first time I’d been on a plane, so that was very exciting, and we flew as a group.

"And when we got to Quebec City, I got to stay in the Château Frontenac, and it was the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever seen. Those things stick out."

She competed in the 1971 Canada Winter Games in Saskatoon as a figure skater, before switching gears and competing in the 1977 Canada Summer Games in St. John’s, N.L., as a tennis player.

"Figure skating was very intense," she explains. "You’re skating before school, after school, you’re skating weekends. In those days, you’d get a little burnt out. So the decision was, instead of burning out, take some time off and try another sport."

Scatliff hung up her figure skates for good when she was about 20, but she was far from being done with the Canada Games. Now 60, she has been involved with the event in some capacity over the past few decades, mostly as the assistant chef de mission for Team Manitoba.

This year, she’s taking on a new role as the mission services consultant, acting as a liaison between the host society and the chefs de mission who lead the delegations from each province and territory.

Each chef de mission has 25 or so volunteers who help make sure athletes, coaches and managers have everything they need for the duration of the event.

For the past week and a half, the Tier Building at the University of Manitoba has been transformed into mission services, which really is the central nervous system of the Games. Each province and territory has a temporary office/home base/hub set up in the building.

As hosts, Scatliff and her team work with every chef de mission, taking care of all the logistical details so athletes can focus solely on their performances. (As you might expect, there are a lot of flow charts on the walls.)

Scatliff says the Canada Games give these young athletes a taste of international competition.

"It is a mini Olympics," she says. "They stay in a village. They eat together with all the athletes from all the different provinces and territories. They go and watch other sports they’ve never seen before, and they cheer other athletes on. They develop this feeling like they are at the Olympics, and maybe they’ll aspire to go on into international competition after this."

Her own children, who are 27, 25 and 22, also competed in the Canada Games. Her eldest daughter was a synchronized swimmer, her middle daughter competed in rowing and shooting and her youngest son in shooting.

"Because I liked the Games so much and I worked in it, and I see the value of them and see what a special experience (it is), I really encouraged my children to try out for different sports and get to the Games," she says.

"I’d say they all feel the same way, that it was a really great experience."

Scatliff says she’s honoured to be part of the host committee this year because it’s the 50th anniversary of the Canada Games and they’re in her hometown. But it doesn’t take much to become a Games lifer, she says.

"You just have to do one once and you will be passionate. That’s the way they’re set up, that’s the feeling," she says.

"Because I’ve been to so many, I don’t see it as much, but these games, we have volunteers in our office, it’s their very first games, and they’re going to cry when they leave — I can see it right away.

"It’s just so much fun. You meet people from all over Canada. You cheer for their teams, you have highs and lows, you work really hard, you’re really tired, but it’s something — I don’t know, it just gets to you."

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @JenZoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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