Taking in the Games
Carbonear swimming coach catches live action in Rio
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
Junior Somers, left, with his brother Wayne at the pool inside the Olympics Aquatic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.