Countdown to The Games: Francois Caron writes about soccer and mountain biking in his weekly look at the Island athletes who will be competing in Winnipeg this summer
Soccer squads, mountain bike team preparing for Canada Games
Team P.E.I. will host their athlete rally tonight at 7 p.m. at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown and this is when the excitement really starts to build.
This evening, the athletes will see they are part of a much bigger team than their own individual sport. Tonight will be a great chance to build on the excitement of the Games and celebrate the 50 years P.E.I. has been a part of it while providing the opportunity to send off in style the more than 300 members of Team P.E.I.
Winnipeg is hosting this year’s Games from July 28 to Aug. 13.
The rally is open to the public. Three of the teams participating in the rally are the men’s and women’s soccer teams and the mountain bike team.
Soccer has been a mainstay of the Canada Games with it being on the calendar every four years since 1969. It was only the men’s program for the first six Games and then the women’s championship was added in 1993.
Both teams will play at the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex with women’s team competing during the first week of competition while the men’s squad compete in Week 2.
The women’s soccer team has been active this spring and early summer playing in the New Brunswick premier league.
The competition has been great for the team as all the matches have been one-goal games and they recently played to a 1-1 tie versus the first-place Codiac First Touch squad from the Moncton area.
P.E.I. will play the New Brunswick Canada Games team this Friday in Fredericton, N.B., and will have a couple of more matches before the Games in Winnipeg.
The Graeme McDonaldcoached team will be in a pool with Ontario and the Northwest Territories and will play those two teams to determine whether they move onto the quarter-final or play in the consolation pool.
The team has been working well as a unit and is looking for great results in Winnipeg.
On the men’s side, Lewis Page is once again leading the team after coaching the 2001 and 2009 P.E.I. teams at the Games.
This year’s team has been busy training for the past two seasons. In 2016, they travelled to Winnipeg to play three games, including two against Team Manitoba, and had the opportunity to train with the under-20 men’s national team coach Rob Gale.
This year, the team participated in two showcase tournaments and travelled to Quebec to compete against their Canada Games team. The team is now participating in the New Brunswick premier league and will play against Alberta and Ontario in their first round at the Games.
The team does have some Canada Games experience as Ryan Boswall and Ryan Lowery competed in the 2015 Games in Prince George, B.C., and assistant coach Kris McKinnon attended the 1997 Games in Brandon, Man.
The mountain bike team features two male and two female cyclists who will compete during the first week of the Games at Bison Butte Mountain Bike Course.
For those who have never watched a mountain bike race before, it is certainly an exciting and entertaining sport. These athletes work their way up and down the mountain while negotiating a variety of natural and man-made obstacles at impressive speeds.
The Bonnie Hayden-coached team was recently in Vermont for a training camp where the riders logged lots of time on their bikes honing their skills. The team has also been enjoying good results at recent competitions in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. They hosted the Tour de Pants Sunday at the Brookvale Nordic Park.
In Winnipeg, the team will compete in the cross country, sprint and team relay events. Francois Caron is the central region co-ordinator for the sport, recreation and physical activity division of the P.E.I. Department of Health and Wellness. He has attended nine Games and will be Team P.E.I.’s assistant chef de mission during the second week of the 2017 Canada Games.
Stanley Bridge’s Marilyn Sheen races in the Tour de Pants Sunday at the Brookvale Nordic Park. The event is the third stage of the Cycling P.E.I. Citizen Mountain Bike Series.