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As Prince Edward Island athletes waited to board flights this week from Charlottetown to Red Deer, Atla., for the 2019 Canada Winter Games, their smiles tell a story.
This year’s games come to a close on March 2-3. We sent teams to participate in 15 sports, including hockey, gymnastics, judo, speed skating, alpine skiing, curling and ringette, to name a few.
For these athletes, this may be the highest level of competition they face. They may not become professional athletes or participate in other games, but at the very least, they will all have a story to tell their children and grandchildren about the months and years of training and commitment, and the honour to represent their home on the national level.
It is also a story to tell for the families nervously watching and loudly rooting for their children’s success.
Especially with team sports, P.E.I. is always at a disadvantage at these games because its 153,000 or so population is dwarfed compared to larger provinces and many cities.
Take Ontario, for example. Several cities – Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Mississauga, London, Markham, Brampton and Windsor, to name a few, each have a higher population than the Island. And, when putting teams together, larger populations have access to a larger talent pool.
That doesn’t mean Island teams can’t compete and win against larger provinces, but the odds are against it.
The last time around in 2015 in Victoria, B.C., the only Island medal in the Canada Winter Games came from Lennox Island’s Brandon Bernard. Then 16, Bernard captured bronze in judo.
In the 2017 Summer Games, swimmer Alexa McQuaid captured the Island’s only medal – a silver.
With the Winter Games coming back to P.E.I. in 2023, we’ll have the chance once again to show the rest of Canada what we have to offer.
For inspiration, we don’t have to look much farther than Mark Arendz and Heather Moyse – great Island athletes and equally great people.
This is why there was no better choice than Cameron Davis as the Island’s opening ceremony flag bearer.
Profiled in The Guardian on Friday, Davis has grown into a gymnastics athlete that captured two silver medals and a bronze at the 2018 Eastern Canadian championships. What makes the accomplishments all the more impressive is that Davis has achieved success while living with cystic fibrosis.
We don’t know if Davis and the other 152 Island athletes will be able to improve on past performances.
But that isn’t entirely the point.
One thing we know is that the scoreboard and medal count only tell one side of the story.
Win or lose, we can bet on how our athletes represent the province – with pride and heart.