For most young athletes, the Canada Games will be the biggest stage they will ever compete on.
But for a pair of Winnipeg archers, the Canada Games is only the beginning.
Week 1 of the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., wrapped up Friday, with Manitoba finishing the first half with 11 medals — seven gold, two silver, two bronze. Manitoba’s speedskating duo of Tyson Langelaar and Alexa Scott led the charge for the province, as they skated their way to a combined seven gold medals and a silver.
That’s obviously a tough act to follow, but if there are two Team Manitoba athletes up to the task, it might just be archers Bryanne Lameg and Austin Taylor. Lameg, 19, and Taylor, 18, are no strangers to competing on the big stage, as they both represent Canada at the international level.
Lameg, the reigning Canadian outdoor target archery champion, is on the junior national team, the senior World Cup team and has also been selected to represent Canada in the women’s compound division at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. Taylor, the reigning Canadian junior-aged outdoor target archery and field archery champion, is also on the senior World Cup team, as well as the senior and junior world championship teams.
Despite having big expectations, Lameg said the plan is to go into this week and enjoy the experience.
"The goal, essentially, is to shoot to the best of my ability, have a great time, enjoy myself and have fun — that kind of thing," said Lameg, who won a gold medal in the mixed-team compound event with Keenan Brown at the Canada Winter Games in 2015 in Prince George, B.C. "Hopefully, by doing that, I’ll medal."
Taylor shared the same sentiment.
"There’s really no added pressure. My main goal is to shoot my bows the way I can and have fun while I do it. If I do that, there’s no doubt in my mind that I will medal," he said.
Lameg and Taylor both started archery around the same age, but they got into the sport for different reasons. Lameg, who was 14, was into mixed martial arts before she was asked by some friends to try archery.
Two months after picking up a bow for the first time, she went to junior nationals and finished in fourth place.
"I didn’t take lessons or anything like that," said Lameg, a student at the University of Manitoba. "I realistically didn’t know what I was doing. I was just enjoying myself and trying to have a good time."
Although archery isn’t a contact sport, Lameg credits her mixed martial arts experience for making her transition an easy one.
"There are many similarities, especially in the mindset," Lameg said.
"All those sorts of aspects of martial arts are applicable to archery, I find. Archery is a very mental sport, especially in indoor, where there’s no external factors like wind or rain going on — it’s just you against the target. The mental factor is something that definitely can play a big effect into how you shoot. I think doing martial arts as long as I did really helped me with that."
For Taylor, he can thank his big brother Spencer for getting him started in the sport.
Well, sort of.
When Taylor was 13, his older brother had a "crappy" bow from Canadian Tire, but he wouldn’t let him use it. Annoyed with his brother, Taylor went out and got his own, and his passion for the sport began.
"If he did let me use it, I probably would’ve just used it for a little bit then moved on," said Taylor, who now practises and works at Heartland Archery.
Taylor’s goal is to medal for Canada at a world championship event. Lameg also has high aspirations, but for her, they can’t be measured by a medal.
"Honestly, just to do just as good or better than the guys, really," Lameg said. "I just want to shoot and have good shots, and I don’t want to be hindered by the fact that I’m a girl. A lot of people think girls can’t shoot as good, and I really want to shoot well. I don’t want to be good for a girl — I want to be a good archer."
Archery events at the Canada Games run today to Thursday. Lameg and Taylor will be competing in the individual compound events and the mixed-team compound event.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
Updated on Monday, February 25, 2019 at 10:41 PM CST: corrects date of previous gold win