Excitement is building as the community cheers on biathlete Brendan Green in Sochi, Russia.
While Green came in 23rd in his first race Feb. 8 as a result of a missed shot that added 30 seconds to his time, he placed high enough to join the Canadian men’s biathlon team in the pursuit event on Monday. A crowd gathered to watch the first race early Saturday morning in the Community Hall, enjoying a free pancake breakfast provided by the Ptarmigan Inn as well.
The competition continued Monday morning, when Green got himself in 35th place in men’s pursuit. Tomorrow, he has an individual race, followed by a 15 km mass start Feb. 16 and a relay Feb. 22.
“It’s just great to see the whole town come out in support of not only Brendan, but all of Team Canada,” said Mayor Andrew Cassidy, who also happens to be Green’s brother-in-law. “I think it started with Brendan, but now you can really feel the energy for the whole team.”
The live feed from Russia the morning of Feb. 8 was not, however, the only Olympic related event of last week. The town turned to a sea of viridescence when residents young and old donned many shades of green to mark Green Day on Feb. 7, and three of the five schools came out to a pep rally at the new fire hall to cheer on their hometown hero the same day.
“Brenny is the first Winter Olympian from the NWT since 1980,” said Bob White, member of the Hay River Ski Club and organizer of many of the Green-related events held in town. “It’s important for us to be as great as we can possibly be, once every four years.”
Students from Diamond Jenness Secondary School, Ecole Boreale, and Princess Alexandra School came out, bedecked in Green and carrying banners, to cheer along with Glenn Smith, who was presiding over the rally. White and several others took photos and videos of the crowd to send to Sochi, where he said despite not having much time to respond, Green would appreciate the support.
“It’s just so great to have everyone come out and get energized about the Olympics,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without Fire Chief Ross Potter and this new hall, they’ve just been amazing.”
White explained that while simply making it to the Olympics – twice – was no mean feat and deserved recognition, he thought the rally helped serve another purpose too.
“It just goes to show that even if you’re from a small place like Hay River, you can make it,” he said, adding that Green completed high school in Hay River, unlike most aspiring athletes who have to move away to train.
White hoped Green would serve as an inspiration to young people, whether their dreams were to pursue sports or otherwise.
“Hay River has always been this way,” said master-of-ceremonies Smith after the students had filed out and the cacophony had died down. “Brendan is doing so much more than competing for himself out there.”