A Games like no other

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

The Canada Games are the pin­na­cle of am­a­teur sport for many in this coun­try. Last week, a group from the Trinity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia re­gion par­tic­i­pated in fe­male hockey dur­ing the first week of the 2015 Canada Win­ter Games in Prince Ge­orge, B.C. The Compass caught up with a pair of them.

“Walk­ing in was the best part for sure. To see all the crowd as you en­tered the arena.” Kelsey Shute

Some lucky ath­letes get mul­ti­ple cracks at the Canada Games — young enough to com­pete at least twice in ei­ther the win­ter or sum­mer it­er­a­tions of the sport­ing spec­ta­cle.

But, for those who get the sin­gle op­por­tu­nity, there is noth­ing quite like testing your­self on the na­tional stage.

For Dunville’s Abigail Gam­bin, Bare­need’s Brooke Wil­liamson and Har­bour Grace’s Kelsey Shute, the 2015 Canada Win­ter Games might be their only chance to show­case their skills to a Canada-wide au­di­ence.

“It was pretty un­be­liev­able,” said Shute. “It was noth­ing like I ex­pected.”

Clad in the familiar ma­roon of Team New­found­land and Labrador, the trio, along with fel­low Trinity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia ath­lete Shai­lynn Snow (Clarke’s Beach), waved to the crowd as they made their way through the CN Cen­tre in Prince Ge­orge, B.C. as a part of the open­ing cer­e­monies. Snow, 13, will likely suite up again for Team NL at the next win­ter games.

“Walk­ing in was the best part for sure,” said Shute. “To see all the crowd as you en­tered the arena.”

For the trio, it was their sec­ond such open­ing cer­e­monies. A year ear­lier, they were a part of the Avalon team that cap­tured bronze at the 2014 New­found­land and Labrador Win­ter Games in Clarenville. Al­beit, Clarenville wasn’t quite as huge as the event in B.C.

“It was pretty cool we all made the team again and went to this next level,” said Gam­bin.

Avalon coach Jen­nifer Pol­lett, of New Har­bour, was also in B.C. with the three mem­bers of that team as an as­sis­tant with Team NL.

Fam­ily sup­port

Both Shute and Gam­bin had their im­me­di­ate fam­ily in the build­ing for all five games they played. Shute’s mother, sis­ter and brother were there, while Gam­bin had her par­ents and younger sis­ter cheer­ing her on.

“They had a sign made that said ‘Go Abby Go,’” said Gam­bin. “It was pretty cool and good hav­ing the sup­port.”

“It was great hav­ing fam­ily there,” added Shute.

The com­pe­ti­tion

Both ath­letes rev­eled in testing their skills against the best in the coun­try.

There were the cus­tom­ary open­ing game nerves — “when the na­tional an­them played, the nerves started go­ing a bit,” said Shute — to deal with, but other than that they were pleased with how they played.

“It was great play­ing against the other teams,” said Gam­bin, a steady pres­ence on the back end.

When the team wasn’t com­pet­ing on the ice, there were plenty to do at the ath­lete’s vil­lage. They checked out some of the nightly en­ter­tain­ment pro­vided to the ath­lete’s, and also showed their sup­port for the other sports go­ing on dur­ing their time there.

“It was a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Gam­bin.

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COMPASS

Dunville’s Abigail Gam­bin.

PHOTO BY KENN OLIVER/TC ME­DIA

Har­bour Grace’s Kelsey Shute.

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