The toughest position can be in the stands DAY 17
CANADA S COUNT Nervousness, pride, relief . . . it’s no Pan Am picnic being an athlete’s parent
What Women’s softball gold-medal game
Sunday, 11 a.m.
Canada vs. United States
Why Canada gets a third shot at the United States after losing two previous games. The Americans whitewashed Canada 7-0 in preliminary round play and then registered a 5-2 victory in the first round of the playoffs. But the tournament is using the Page playoff system and Canada gets a third chance after beating Puerto Rico on Saturday night.
Derek Drouin High jump “High jump, grouped in with pole vault, is the only sport where every time you’re ending on failure. More than anything it takes an emotional toll on you that every single time whether you win the meet or not you’re always ending on three misses. Every high jump coach I’ve ever had, that’s always been rule No. 1 this is what you have to get through your head — the bar always wins. You never beat the bar, which is difficult to deal with. As fun as it is that’s the hardest thing for a vertical jumper.”
NEED TO KNOW
Men’s soccer final
Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
Uruguay vs. Mexico
Why One of the marquee event of any multi-sports Games, the soccer final always evokes great passion among fans of the competing teams. Sunday should be no exception as two traditional powers square off when Uruguay tries to unseat the defending Pan Am gold medallists who won at home in Guadalajara four years ago. Argentina has won the Pan Am Games soccer championship six times, while Mexico and Brazil have been champions four times each. Doug Smith Before her daughter’s bronze-medal field hockey game Friday afternoon, Lisa Henderson flipped around her Pan Am Games credential to reveal a “lucky” penny tucked into the corner of the laminated pass. She had made sure not to wear any of the same clothing she wore two days earlier when Canada lost their semi-final game to the U.S. “I never wear the same thing after a loss,” she said. And in her usual front-row seat, Henderson was bracing herself for an emotional ride.
“My stomach will get more tense as we go,” she said. “If they don’t score off the bat I know it’s going to be a nervous hour.”
Henderson and her husband, Loren Culley, have been watching their daughter, Thea Culley, play for Canada’s national team for more than a decade. They have travelled with her to Scotland, Chile, Mexico and all across Canada, experiencing jubilation and heartbreak in equal measure, while cringing along with their daughter’s every break, sprain and strain.
“You absorb all of their emotions,” Henderson said.
It was a nervous hour on Friday, but in the 51st minute of their game against Chile, Canada scored to break the 0-0 tie, winning their first Pan Am medal since 1999. It was also the first time Henderson and Culley had seen their daughter win a medal on a stage this big. “I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes,” she said. “Because I was just so happy for them.”
Two days earlier, Henderson experienced a different feeling as she saw her daughter’s “extreme disappointment” following their loss to the U.S., which also eliminated them from Olympic qualification. Thea has dreamed of participating in the Olympics since she was eight years old, her mother said. Now she will have to wait another four years in hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. “We want it for them because they work so hard,” Henderson said. “We feel their pain.”
For the athletes, these games are the culmination of years — sometimes decades — of sacrifice and commitment. For their parents, it’s often much the same. They have committed time and money, for sure. But they also ride the emotional highs and lows of competition, sometimes more intensely than the athletes themselves. “Sometimes it’s harder to watch from the sidelines because you’re helpless,” Henderson said.
Nancy McCabe doesn’t have any superstitions when she watches her daughter swim, but she wishes she did. “I would like to have something that I thought would assist in some way,” she said. “But I know Martha doesn’t let those enter her mind, so I try not to let them enter mine.”
Martha McCabe won a silver medal in her hometown pool last week, barely out-touched by Canadian teammate Kierra Smith in the 200metre breaststroke. “I know there’s nothing I can do,” her mother told the Star. “So I try to keep calm. But still, your heart is beating pretty fast.”
Martha competed in the London Olympics, but Nancy said these Games, in her hometown, were more intense. “All of those things we would normally feel — excited, proud, happy, stressed — but even more so because you’re in your hometown and you know everybody is coming to watch her and you know she wants to do her best.”
Whether her daughter wins a medal or not, Nancy said she is always “overwhelmed with pride” after a race. But more than anything, she said, she feels a sense of relief. “Relief that the race is over.”
After Friday’s field hockey win, Henderson pushed through a crowd of well wishers to reach her daughter. “They let this little grey-haired lady through to let her hug her sweaty daughter,” she said later, laughing at the memory. Henderson said she and her daughter didn’t say much to each other after the game. They just hugged. “It was a long, hard squeeze that we gave each other and I didn’t care that she was sweaty.”