Over 1,700 athletes, coaches and officials are gearing up for the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games, which is taking place in Swift Current, Saskatchewan Aug. 9-18.
Five of these athletes originate from Northern Manitoba and will represent their province in events ranging from canoeing/kayaking to wrestling to track and field.
Thompson resident Sheldin Howard is one of the north’s biggest prospects for this year’s games, having just won a gold and silver medal in senior boys’ discus and shot put, respectively, during the most recent high school provincials.
Howard told the Thompson Citizen that he’s looking forward to testing his skills against athletes who possess superior speed and strength, since this competition pulls from a larger talent pool than he’s used to.
“The age limit is 20 years old and I’m not even 18,” he said. “Usually in high school provincials I’m the biggest one, so it’s different from what I’ve actually experienced.”
The recent R.D. Parker Collegiate graduate went on to say that’s he’s hoping to beat his personal best throw for both shot put (11.6 metres) and discus (35.5 metres).
Cross Lake is hoping to make an impression with its wrestling team, which consists of Heidi Halcrow, Kassia Ross and Michelle Omand.
All three of these athletes competed during the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games in Thompson. Omand and Halcrow even walked away with a handful of medals despite the fact that they had been wrestling for less than a year at that point.
Rounding out this group of northern athletes is Mario Flett from St. Theresa Point, who is representing Team Manitoba in the canoe/kayak event.
According to his athlete bio on the Western Canada Summer Games’ official website, Flett is also a relative newcomer to this sport and this scale of competition in general.
Before this year, Flett’s is only other experience in a major sporting event is playing 14U basketball at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games.
Luckily, the Western Canada Summer Games primarily bills itself as a training ground where amateur athletes get to prepare for future national and international sporting events.
This set-up is perfect for a competitor like Howard, who is looking for every opportunity to develop his track skills now that he’s graduated from high school.
“I’m happy that I have the opportunity to continue with track,” he said. “My coach was kind of forcing me at first in Grade 10, but then after a while I started to love it.”
Altogether, Team Manitoba is sending over 300 athletes, aged 13-20, to participate in 19 sports throughout the duration of the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games.
They will be competing against teams from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut.