By Mark Colley
On Monday, the countdown to the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games began with the torch lighting at the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill.
Its flame was sparked by Sam Effah, a two-time 100 metre Canadian Champion and 2009 Canada Games gold medallist, along with local lacrosse players Tristan Caldwell and Tristan Thompson. Both are competing for Team Ontario in Niagara, which will see the first lacrosse competition at the Canada Summer Games in 37 years.
Following the lighting, the torch began a relay along the Trans Canada Trail through Quebec. It will arrive in Montreal on June 15, then travel by water along the St. Lawrence Seaway to Niagara. The Games will be held from Aug. 6-21. It was originally scheduled to take place last year but was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
“It’s been an exercise of resiliency,” Steve Sevor, Team Ontario’s chef de mission, told the Ottawa Sports Pages. “It’s definitely a momentous occasion … It signifies the Games are here. It’s real.”
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The lighting ceremony featured speeches from dignitaries, including Ottawa city Coun. Mathieu Fleury and federal Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge.
“It’s exciting for us, as Ottawa, to be the start of the torch relay. We are really proud of our local athletes who will be competing in Niagara,” Fleury said. “We’re all hopeful that one day, we see them on the national scene, on the international scene, and perhaps one day holding a medal.”
Thompson, a 15-year-old who will compete in the first-ever women’s lacrosse competition at the Canada Summer Games, plays locally for St. Mark Catholic High School, the Gloucester Griffins and the Nepean Knights.
Thompson said lighting the torch was the “opportunity of a lifetime.”
“You see it on TV, you see all these torch lightings, all these huge ceremonies and you always wish to be in that position and actually be there,” Thompson told the Sports Pages. “It’s a little stressful, because I was hoping I actually lit the wick.”
Thompson started playing lacrosse six years ago after her brother got into the sport. She said she fell in love with it, although she still plays U22 hockey with the Nepean Wildcats and couldn’t choose which sport she likes more.
In 2019, Thompson won silver in lacrosse at nationals with Team Ontario. She said the Summer Games will be an entirely different type of competition.
“Compared to nationals, there’s way more provinces that are participating,” Thompson said. “The competition, the atmosphere — I’ve been told it’s kind of like the Olympic village.”
That atmosphere came close to being in Ottawa. The city bid to host the 2021 Games — now postponed to 2022 — back in 2017, along with Niagara, Sudbury and Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge.
The Games would have utilized Carleton University for the athletes’ village and Lansdowne Park, the University of Ottawa and the Nepean Sportsplex as other venues. The bid received support from politicians and local leaders but ultimately lost.
Regardless, those involved are now looking forward to the Games, which are less than 60 days away. Thompson said the lacrosse team is hoping to have at least six practices together, with two practices at the actual facility in Niagara.
“Our coaches have told us that they want us to be the fittest team on the floor,” Thompson said.
Sevor said his preparation for the Games includes prepping Team Ontario on what to expect on and off the field.
“The Niagara community is primed and ready to host a great Games for us,” Sevor said. “Just having that uniqueness of having athletes, para athletes [and] special Olympians participating in one games, it’s just unique and it’s just exciting.”
Mirroring our coverage of the recent Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Ottawa Sports Pages plans to produce daily coverage on Ottawa athletes competing at the 2022 Canada Summer Games. Sign up for our newsletter below to make sure you get all our athlete profiles, previews, recaps, interviews and competition schedules on the Niagara 2022 Games.
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