Hundreds of New Brunswick youth athletes are heading to Ontario to compete against the best in the nation in the Canada Summer Games.
Team New Brunswick, which includes 346 athletes, gathered at the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport on Friday morning to board a charter flight to the games.
The Canada Games, hosted this year in Niagara, Ont., will feature more than 5,000 young athletes competing inter-provincially in 18 different sports. The competition begins Saturday and will continue until Aug. 21.
Sydney Arseneault, of Saint John, was preparing to leave to her second Canada Games to play on the softball team. She competed in badminton at the 2018 games in Red Deer, Alta.
“It’s a higher level and you have to up your game to be equal with them or even compete. It’s fun to see how you scale against everybody,” she said.
Arseneault, 18, said her teammates were both nervous and excited while preparing to board their flight. For some of them, it’ll be their first time on a plane.
“Everybody is all together, you stay in a village, it’s an amazing experience,” she said.
‘It’s been surreal’
The New Brunswick delegation also includes 80 coaches, managers, and technical staff, and 20 team members.
The province will have athletes competing in athletics, baseball, beach volleyball, box lacrosse, canoeing and kayaking, cycling, golf, mountain biking, rowing, rugby sevens, sailing, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, and wrestling.
Matt Whipple is headed to his first games as coach of the softball team.
“This has been such a long process that I think it’s been surreal for a long time. I know they’re excited to get going,” he said.
Whipple said the softball tryout process for the games started two years ago, with the final team selected from of a pool of about 70 athletes. The team has been training together for about a year and competed at the Canadian championship last week to prepare.
‘I can’t wait’
For Auyouba Kanara, representing New Brunswick in soccer at the Canada Games has been a goal for several years. He’s originally from the Ivory Coast and now lives in Memramcook.
“I’m really lucky to be a part of this. I can’t wait,” the 16-year-old said.
“I’m really excited that I’m a part of this team. I’ve been waiting for it, I’ve been working for it and I’m really glad that I’m finally where I want to be.”
Ben Soke, a pitcher from Fredericton on baseball team, said he’s excited about their chances to advance at his first games when New Brunswick plays Quebec.
“I think it’s going to be a bigger deal than we’re expecting it to be,” he said.
These Canada Summer Games were originally scheduled to take place last year, but were postponed due to COVID-19. As a result, the Canada Winter Games are less than a year away. They will be hosted by Prince Edward Island with some events at Crabbe Mountain in New Brunswick.
The Canada Games are slated to return to New Brunswick for the third time in 2029.