Week two of the Canada Summer Games in Niagara, Ont., is off and running and that means new sports for Team NT to prepare for.
It’s volleyball and track and field that will take centre stage for the territory’s athletes, but before we roll into that, Team NT’s chef de mission talked about week one. No medals to speak of, unlike the excitement seen by Nunavut and Cambridge Bay’s Eekeeluak Avalak on the wrestling mat, but no shame, either, said Rita Mercredi.
“On the field of play, everyone did amazing,” she said. “I don’t think there was a moment where the athletes didn’t bring their best. We had a close call in beach volleyball, we had swimmers taking off something, like, 30 seconds off of times, soccer was great, so was basketball, close calls in tennis — no complaints at all.”
The beach volleyball duo of Christopher Mathison and Isaac Karstad missed a chance at a play-in game for the playoffs, suffering one loss too many in the round-robin, but Mercredi said the pair really rose to the occasion.
“They got better as they kept playing and that’s what happens when you’re playing the best in the country,” she said. “You play better when the teams are better and that’s what we want to see: athletes who bring it every time and compete.”
Going into the Games, there was the worry about how the two-plus years of Covid-19 restrictions would’ve factored into performances on the playing field. Several sports weren’t able to either hold practices, play games or travel to play because of the varying rules governing what could and couldn’t happen.
Mercredi said those restrictions did play havoc with preparations, but it was never used as an excuse if things went south.
“I never heard it said once,” she said. “Our coaches and athletes did what they had to do and they all managed it well, even with not having 100 per cent engagement. Our coaches had expectations and I think some of our athletes exceeded those expectations.”
Speaking about Avalak’s performance, Mercredi said it was a moment that took her breath away simply because it happened to a fellow Northerner.
“For him to be able to pull that off, those are the things I live vicariously through,” she said. “Obviously, it wasn’t one of our athletes, but all of us in the North seem to band together and cheer each other on. Just think of what he’s going to be able to do now and the opportunities that are going to come.”
And so now the focus turns to the second week, which gets underway on Tuesday. The girls volleyball team will be in action versus Yukon at 12 p.m. MDT, while track and field will see a full slate of events, including the heats in the 100-metre and 400-metre races, long jump and triple jump, among others.
Mercredi said the athletes and coaches all arrived in Toronto on Sunday safe and sound and made it into St. Catharines, Ont., not too long after that.
“They had a chance to practice (on Monday) and they’re excited,” she said. “I think what’s really cool is that the venues for both sports are close together, so that means they can go and cheer each other on.”