BY MARGARET CALDBICK
Staff The shadows were lengthening, but the light was still brilliant when scattered groups of powerfully-built Glengarry men smelling of liniment and wearing duct-taped work boots began appearing at Sunday’s Galarama, in St. Raphael’s.
The men were the six 8-member teams arriving to compete in the church fundraiser’s exciting finale, the tug-of-war competition. When they were spotted, people started heading to the contest site to stake out their spots. By the start of the event, 400 people were lined up and waiting.
Returning, were the defending champions, the Sons of Glengarry, a brawny team that trains out of Summerstown, coached by George Lapierre. The team won the Galarama Challenge last year, when the contest was revived after a near two-decade hiatus.
Other teams were the Sons’ arch- rivals, South Glengarry, to whom they lost at this year’s Maxville Fair; the Glengarry Outhouses, a lighter-weight team that compensates with stamina and superb form; the kilted SD&G Highlanders gearing up for this weekend’s Glengarry Highland Games Highland Regiments tug- of- war; the Tugboats; and a young but serious team from Tagwi Secondary School, in Avonmore.
After the round robin, it came down to a gritted-teeth showdown between the Sons of Glengarry and South Glengarry.
In the first pull of the threepull final, the Sons of Glengarry were in full control and clearly had it, with South Glengarry dragged within a foot of the centre line.
Suddenly it all fell apart when the Sons lost their rhythm and, despite savage attempts to dig their heels into the turf and regain control, the South Glengarry brigade easily pulled their opponents across the line. The upset happened so quickly that the slack rope tossed the winners head-over-heels into a pile.
“A few of the guys slipped and it threw everybody off,” says Sons of Glengarry coach George Lapierre. “The South still had some traction, and they took advantage and caught us on a slip.”
At the break, the team regrouped, and with Lapierre’s coach commands to calm down, not panic, stay focused, and stay steady, the Sons managed an exciting comeback to win the next two pulls.
“They were tired before that last pull. You don’t know until you actually get on that rope that it’s like pulling against a house that doesn’t want to move,” Lapierre explains.
“When you’re putting strain against something that’s not moving it drains everything out of you.”
The win for the Sons was their third of the competitive season.
The rebirth of the tug-of-war at last year’s Galarama and at the 2008 Glengarry Highland Games is part of a worldwide resurgence in popularity in the ancient sport.
Tug-of-war was contested as a team event in the Summer Olympics at every Olympiad from 1900 to 1920, and the TugOf-War International Federation (TWIF) is currently trying to get the sport back into the Olympics in time for the 2024 Games.
Here at home, Sons of Glengarry team member Dale Vander Burg sees how the sport has changed locally. “All the teams are starting to match up and they are all tough pulls,” he notes. “Everyone is practising a lot now.”
Vander Burg explains that the Galarama was practice for the much-anticipated Williamstown Fair tug-of-war competition, set for Sunday, Aug. 13.
The first prize is the MacGillivray Trophy and a purse of $1,000.
But the trophy win is only part of the reason the team is training brutally hard in preparation.
In Williamstown the team will be coming face- to- face with defending champions and their chief adversaries, South Glengarry.
GET ‘ GAMES’
PULL!: Members of the Sons of Glengarry lean into a hearty tug, successfully defending their title at the Galarama.
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