Hay River athletes switch off at Canada Summer Games

Andrew Lirette runs in the 1,500 metre event at a track meet in Sherwood Park, Alberta in July in preparation for his stint at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec. - photo courtesy of Charles Lirette

Andrew Lirette runs in the 1,500 metre event at a track meet in Sherwood Park, Alberta in July in preparation for his stint at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
– photo courtesy of Charles Lirette

Some of Hay River’s best and brightest came home this week from competing at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec, but others have only just left for their own turn.

For Sara Gibbon, 14, a relay swimmer who came home on Sunday, Aug. 11, the experience was a highlight of her budding sporting career.

“It was my first time at the Games,” she told The Hub Aug. 8. “It’s been really interesting and exciting.”

Gibbons said that while she spent a lot of time in the pool training and competing, she also had a chance to enjoy some of the atmosphere on campus, including a movie played on a giant screen outside and periodic outbreaks of dance-parties around parked vehicles blasting music.

“Just being here and getting to see all kinds of people has been really great,” she said.

Despite Team NWT failing to make the podium as of Aug. 11 in any event, swimming coach Kelvin Yee said he was more than proud of the swimmers and their performance.

We took a really young team this year,” he said. “All our girls are 14 and under, and they were swimming against 19-year-olds.”

The girls did, however, sweep the NWT records board clean, setting 18 different records for their division. Yee said the higher level of competition was good for the athletes, as it encouraged them to push harder than they have in the past.

“It was a little intimidating at first,” said Gibbons, adding that it took a few days to work out the kinks in the team when swimmers from Yellowknife and Hay River were grouped together. “But I got through the nerves and have been swimming really good this week.”

For Gibbons, bringing back a personal best and some good memories was the goal. Yee, her coach, hopes all the athletes come back with a good understanding of what the Canada Games are really about as well as a renewed enthusiasm for training.

“I hope they see the calibre of training they need to get to that level,” he said.

The swimmers will have about eight weeks off – time enough for to rest up a bit – before starting another competition season in October. Yee said the time off will also give them a chance to “calm down mentally” from the excitement of what was for many their first national races.

While the swimmers are gearing down for a few months, the track and field athletes from Hay River are just beginning their run at the Games. Despite also being his first Canada Games, runner Andrew Lirette said he was more than ready to leave for Quebec, Friday, Aug. 9.

“It’ll be a good experience, going to race against Canada’s best,” he said two days before. “I went to the Arctic Winter Games (for biathlon) and it’s pretty cool being part of that bigger team.”

Although competing in both the 1,500 m and 5,000 m events will keep him fairly busy, Lirette said he looks forward to having a few days off while there in which he plans to go check out a few other events.

“I want to take the opportunity to see some of my friends compete in some other sports,” he said.

Lirette’s preparation for races at a higher level remains pretty consistent, but he also added he tries to stay more focused during warm-ups at bigger events.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “You want to make sure you stay more on track.”

— Sarah Ladik