Saskatchewan Winter Games celebrates end of games

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Jodi Schellenberg
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Published on February 23, 2014

Team Lakeland proudly marched out in front of the crowd gathered at the 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games closing ceremonies at the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday. The district won third overall with 70 medals.

Published on February 23, 2014

During the closing ceremonies for the 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games, P.A. Power performed three songs for the athletes, coaches, officials and guests gathered at he Art Hauser Centre on Saturday afternoon.

Published on February 23, 2014

The team with the most points, winning first place overall, was Team Regina, winning a total of 89 medals, following closely by Team Saskatoon with 87 medals. Team Lakeland placed third overall with 70 medals. Three members of Team Regina were presented with the Games flag during the closing ceremonies.

Published on February 23, 2014

The Joe Griffths Award for the most improved district went to Team Prairie Central, who showed an improvement of 19.07 per cent in the final standings since the last Winter Games.

Published on February 23, 2014

P.A. Power performing at closing ceremonies.

Published on February 23, 2014

Team Lakeland

Published on February 23, 2014

The flag is passed to Estevan, who will host the 2016 Saskatchewan Summer Games.

It was an amazing whirlwind of a week for athletes, coaches and volunteers at the 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games.

At the end of the week, the team with the most points, winning first place overall, was Team Regina, winning a total of 89 medals, following closely by Team Saskatoon with 87 medals. Team Lakeland placed third overall with 70 medals.

In addition, the Joe Griffths Award for the most improved district went to Team Prairie Central, who showed an improvement of 19.07 per cent in the final standings since the last Winter Games.

The athletes had a lot of fun throughout the week, competing in their events and watching other events.

 “It was definitely a huge event for us,” said Brett Reddekopp, Lakeland men’s curling skip. “We’ve never been in a multi-sport event and this was definitely our No. 1 thing we’ve gone to.”

He said he was able to watch some badminton, which was also in Carlton.

The athletes also enjoyed staying at the athlete’s village in Carlton Comprehensive High School.

“It was a really good experience,” said Ashley Thevenot, Lakeland women’s curling skip. “Staying in the athlete’s village was really different for us as a team.”

Reddekopp joked that the beds in the dorms were hard but they enjoyed the Games. 

Gold medal skip Carson Ackerman of Moose Jaw was amazed by the sheer size of the event.

“You don’t realize how big an event it is until you get to the school and you walk in and see how big the school is and then you walk into your room and there’s 30 bunk beds full of kids and there’s two in each one,” Ackerman said. “It was ‘Wow, there’s a lot of people in this event. Then you walk around and see all of the other events and there’s badminton and all kinds of other things you can go and watch. It was really exciting. I watched some speedskating. You don’t realize how big of an event it is until you go to the school and see how many kids there are.”

The closing ceremonies were a huge celebration for the coaches, athletes and volunteers, complete with performances by P.A. Power.

One of the main trends of the speakers at the closing ceremonies was comparing the Saskatchewan Winter Games to the Olympics in Socchi, Russia, which were happening at the same time.

“It is so cool to be here in Prince Albert, celebrating the end of our 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games at the same time the close of the Winter Olympics are taking place in Socchi, Russia tomorrow -- our country of Canada has done unbelievably well,” said Kevin Doherty, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport.

He encouraged the athletes to continue working hard and they could one day be representing Canada at the Olympics.

“At the opening ceremonies, I stated that sitting right here on the floor in front of us, in this arena, are future Olympic athletes,” Doherty said. “Four years from now, or eight years from now, or every 12 years from now if you are like Haley Wickenhauser … we will be cheering on some of you representing Canada on the international stage.

“You will know, it all started right here, in your home province of Saskatchewan,” he added.

The games are an integral part in the development of sport in Saskatchewan, said Larry Sauer, chairperson of the Saskatchewan Games Council.

“The games are an opportunity for athletes, coaches and officials to participate in a competitive multisport event,” Sauer said. “In additional to being an exceptional amateur sporting event, the games exhibit Saskatchewan’s spectacular volunteer dedication, community spirit and co-operation.”

Everyone praised the athletes for their performances throughout the week.

“I hope you personally achieved what you set out to do when you came here, whether that was to achieve a personal best, to win a medal or just to contribute to your team to be as successful as possible,” Doherty said. “I want you to know we are proud of you. Your moms and dads, your grandmas and grandpas, brothers and sister, coaches, friends and your communities are proud of you.

“Why are we proud of you? Because you competed,” he added. “You trained, you worked hard and you persevered and you are here at the Saskatchewan Winter Games, representing the best of the best in our province, so I congratulate you for that.”

The athletes all achieved success, whether or not they won medals.

“I want to congratulate all of the athletes that achieved success at these games,” said Al Dyer, Prince Albert 2014 Sask. Winter Games chairperson. “These games were about you. We will miss your infectious enthusiasm in the athletes’ village. You have all done yourselves proud in your accomplishments and I look forward to seeing some of you on the podium in future Olympic games.”

“With your hard work and perseverance, you were able to compete against some of Saskatchewan’s best athletes in your age category,” Sauer added. “This was your chance to show yourself and the rest of the province what you can achieve when your mind and body reach their highest level of determination and skill.”

All involved hoped the athletes had a wonderful in Prince Albert and have lasting memories to take home with them.

“The memories you have gained at these games will literally last you a lifetime,” Doherty said. “I hope that you made new friends, you cheered others to victory, you comforted each other in defeat and I daresay you will remember this week for the rest of your lives.”

“Your warm smiles and hospitality throughout the week have made this a memorable experience for participants, spectators and volunteers alike,” Sauer added.

Not only were the athletes commended for their hard work, the volunteers were praised for their dedication to making the games a success.

“To the coaches and chaperones, to the officials, to the countless volunteers -- thank you for what you do and what you have done for these young athletes here,” Doherty said. “These games literally would not happen without your participation. Congratulations on a job well done.”

Prince Albert mayor Greg Dionne said the volunteers are all winners in his mind.

“I’m so proud to say the city of Prince Albert is the home of 1,000 champions,” Dionne said. “Who are those champions? They are the 1,00 men, women and children that volunteered to put on these games.

“We would have been comfortable at 1,500, we would have been happy at 2,000, but everyone of these 1,000 volunteers in this building, a big thank you from our city because you are a gold medalist. You put on these games.”

Thanks to the Saskatchewan Games Legacy program, the Winter Games will leave a legacy for the City of Prince Albert.

The program, supported by the Saskatchewan government, helps communities fund equipment purchases and upgrades to facilities as they prepare to host the games, Doherty said.

“It is important because this program will now benefit the community that hosted the games -- whether it is summer games or winter games,” Doherty said. “It will benefit generations to come that live in those communities. It is a wonderful lasting legacy for host communities.”

Dionne said there are many eager to try out some of the upgrades to the facilities.

“Our young skiboarders and skiers are so excited once the games are over so they can get on those hills, jumps and slopes that are out there,” Dionne said. “It is not only a legacy, but an asset for our community.”

The games also had a huge economic impact on the city, Dionne said.

“One of the things as mayor of the city of Prince Albert I am pleased to report to the citizens,” Dionne said. “Not only are they an economic benefit to our city, the only complaints I had this week … was they could not find a hotel room. That shows how successful the games were if you can’t find a hotel room.”

Not only were the games being held in the city, but the Winter Festival and the Canadian Sled Dog Challenge were also being hosted in the community.

“For the young athletes that were here at the start, they joined us and we had one of largest crowds ever on Central Avenue, our main street, for the Canadian Sled Dog Challenge,” Dionne said. “Some of the young people participated holding the dogs (before the race started).”

Doherty said everyone should be proud to be from Saskatchewan.

“Ladies and gentlemen, our province is such a unique place, not only here in Canada but indeed throughout the world,” Doherty said. “There are many things that bond us as people, as a province but I don’t think there is anything that connects us north to south, east to west from community to community or person to person like sports and competitions.

“We are fierce in competition,” he added. “We take it very seriously here in Saskatchewan, yet when the game is done, when the race is over, when the buzzer sounds, despite the outcome, we shake hands, we pat each other on the back and we say well done.”

Before the games officially ended, the Winter Games flag was presented to Estevan, who will be hosting the 2016 Saskatchewan Summer Games.

“It is truly bittersweet on behalf of our board and (organizing committee) to bid you farewell from the 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games,” Dyer said. “We hope you had fun and enjoyed your experience here in Prince Albert. We hope you will return to P.A. soon and have a safe journey home.”

After the games ended, volunteers started working on transforming the facilities back to their regular functions.

All of the athletes had to be out of their dorm rooms in Carlton by 9 a.m. as volunteers went through the massive transformation of turning dorm rooms back into classrooms. The job of moving the desks back into the classrooms was set aside for Sunday after the beds were moved on Saturday.

With files from Perry Bergson

Organizations: Carlton Comprehensive High School, Saskatchewan Games Council, Canadian Sled Dog Challenge Saskatchewan Games Legacy

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Lakeland, Carlton Canada Socchi Russia Moose Jaw Prince Albert Central Avenue

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