Tak­ing in the Games

Car­bon­ear swim­ming coach catches live ac­tion in Rio

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NICHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Ju­nior Somers had the chance of a life­time be­fore him when his brother Wayne of­fered the Car­bon­ear res­i­dent the op­por­tu­nity to join him in Rio de Janerio for the 2016 Sum­mer Olympics. The lo­cal swim­ming coach told The Com­pass about the ex­pe­ri­ence, one he won’t soon for­get.

For the ma­jor­ity of Earth’s in­hab­i­tants, the 2016 Olympic Sum­mer Games in Rio de Janeiro were en­joyed through our tele­vi­sion sets.

Through there, we mar­velled at the ath­letic dis­plays of thou­sands of ath­letes from around the world. Our jaws dropped as the United States’ fe­male gym­nas­tics squad laid waste to the com­pe­ti­tion and when Usain Bolt picked up three gold medals on the track while so­lid­i­fy­ing his rep­u­ta­tion as one of the great­est Olympians ever.

While we were watch­ing all of this, Ju­nior Somers was liv­ing it. The Car­bon­ear res­i­dent was in Brazil’s se­cond-big­gest city to see the best ath­letes in the world com­pete.

Somers re­ceived the op­por­tu­nity through his brother Wayne. Wayne is heav­ily in­volved in the Bad­minton World Fed­er­a­tion and ev­ery Sum­mer Olympiad, he is able to bring one other per­son with him.

This sum­mer it was Ju­nior who got the call.

“They get one tag-a-long,” he said. “I went along with him and stayed with him. They also get passes.”

The Somers brothers ar­rived in Rio three days af­ter the event started and stayed till the fi­nal Satur­day. It gave them plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to check see all the sights and sounds of the great­est ath­letic spec­ta­cle in the world.

“We never stopped,” said Ju­nior. “I’d never been be­fore and I’ll prob­a­bly never go again. It’s a good op­por­tu­nity.”

The pair took in what they could. There were plenty of trips to the pool for swim­ming, div­ing and wa­ter polo, as well as men’s bas­ket­ball and beach vol­ley­ball.

“You only hear about them. You never see them,” said Ju­nior. “What they’ve got to go through with four years of train­ing.”

Some of the best

When he’s not work­ing, Ju­nior is a coach with the Po­sei­don Swim Club in Car­bon­ear. Hav­ing that con­nec­tion to the sport drew him to the pool in Rio.

He caught all of the big names – Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Penny Olek­siak - and mar­velled at their prow­ess in the pool.

Ju­nior was there to see Phelps swim his fi­nal re­lay. He watched in awe as the best swim­mer in the world took the rest of the com­pe­ti­tion to task.

“(Phelps) is just a pow­er­house all over,” he said. “He’s got the height, he’s got the build … he’s built for swim­ming. Tech­nique-wise, he’s just all power.”

Ju­nior was also in the build­ing for one of the finest Cana­dian per­for­mances in the pool in years. That’s when 16-yearold Olek­siak made the turn in the 100m freestyle in sev­enth, but closed with the finest fi­nal 25me­tres and tied for the gold medal.

“(Olek­siak) didn’t look when she fin­ished. She didn’t know at that mo­ment that she won,” said Ju­nior. “When she won, the place went up. Also, when (Joseph School­ing) beat Phelps in the 100 but­ter­fly, that was crazy.”

Not as bad as billed

Head­ing into the Olympics, Brazil was un­der an in­tense me­dia spot­light as nu­mer­ous re­ports sur­faced about trou­ble with the Ath­lete’s Vil­lage, the venues, pol­lu­tion in Gua­n­abara Bay and a host of other prob­lems. That only added to the peo­ple call­ing out the gov­ern­ment for en­gag­ing in class war­fare as Games sites were be­ing pre­pared.

Still, a heavy po­lice pres­ence didn’t de­ter Ju­nior from hav­ing an “ex­cel­lent” time in Rio. He said his group never had any trou­bles and ev­ery is­sue the me­dia al­luded to prior to the start failed to man­i­fest it­self.

“There’s a lot of stuff you heard through the me­dia about Brazil, but the only is­sue we ever had over there was traf­fic. We never had is­sues with any­thing re­ally, only trans­porta­tion,” he said. “The weather was great and the peo­ple treated us like gold.”

Be­ing a 20-minute drive from the heart of the Games, Somers used the car ser­vice Uber quite a bit.

An all-day party

The beach vol­ley­ball venue gained a bit of a rep­u­ta­tion dur­ing the Games. It was al­ways packed and ev­ery day was a party for fans.

They were drink­ing in the stands, shout­ing at ath­letes and gen­er­ally hav­ing a great time. Held at Copaca­bana Beach, vol­ley­ball was an hour away from where Ju­nior was stay­ing.

That meant when they went, it was for the day.

He was there to watch Can- adian teams play each other in the Round of 16 on the fe­male side.

“There were lots of Cana­dian teams and they were com­pet­i­tive,” said Ju­nior. “It was crazy. When the Brazil­ians were play­ing, the place was full and this was like 11 in the morn­ing.

“It was loud. It was awe­some to be there. Just the at­mo­sphere.”

Of course, the Olympics are not all about the events. Ev­ery coun­try has its own house, a place where ath­letes can kick­back and re­lax when they’re fin­ished for the day or the tour­na­ment.

Ju­nior and his brother made their way to a cou­ple of houses, in­clud­ing three dif­fer­ent stops at Canada House. They watched Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo and Ed Robert­son of the Bare­naked Ladies per­form, amongst other en­ter­tain­ers.

“They brought all of the ath­letes that were there and brought them on stage for a lit­tle sing-song,” said Ju­nior.

With the Rio Olympics con­cluded, next on the hori­zon is the 2020 Sum­mer Games be­ing held in Tokyo, Ja­pan.

That means Ju­nior has to get af­ter his brother about se­cur­ing an­other trip.

It was loud. It was awe­some to be there. Just the at­mo­sphere. Ju­nior Somers

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Ju­nior Somers, left, with his brother Wayne at the pool in­side the Olympics Aquatic Sta­dium in Rio de Janeiro.

THE BEACH VOL­LEY­BALL VENUE AT THE OLYMPICS IN RIO DE JANEIRO WAS A POP­U­LAR VENUE, AS ONE CAN TELL FROM SEE­ING THE BIG CROWD DI­RECTLY BE­HIND THE SOMERS BROTHERS.

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