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Opening weekend a success for Ontario Winter Games

Athletes, fans and volunteers help make the event run smoothly in its return to Thunder Bay after 50 years.

THUNDER BAY – The event chair of the Ontario Winter Games is thrilled with the execution in Week 1 of the two-week event.

Barry Streib on Monday said the athletes outperformed expectations, the crowds were great, the volunteers came through every time and the competition was as fierce and fun as promised throughout the four-day schedule.

It couldn’t have gone better, he said.

“I’ve been at many venues. The competition has been super, exciting, and boy a lot of talented young individuals are doing these sports,” Streib said.

The best part of opening weekend?

The opening ceremonies, he said.

“The reason I say that was it was so emotional when the athletes started marching into the event and started waving those wonderful colourful (batons). It was nice to see that spirit they have for the games and then the community supporting that,” Streib said.

“So, from that perspective it was great. But you know what? I’ve been to some competitions here and the talent of these athletes is amazing. It’s wonderful to see. And the coaches are there helping out and it’s a team effort from everybody here.”

Thunder Bay athletes fared particularly well, picking up medals in wrestling, skiing and futsal, which has helped fuel the intensity both on the court and in the stands.

“Everybody’s excited about that and we’re hoping for the best,” Streib said.

Titilayo Alaka, a 17-year player with the Unionville futsal team, scored three times in the gold-medal game, leading her team to an 8-5 win and the top of the podium.

“I’m super happy. The competition is really good. It was really fun. And my team, we pulled through,” Alaka said.

Thunder Bay’s Phoenix DeBrusk, a member of the silver medal-winning U18 Chill futsal team, said it was a fun few days.

“I’ve never had this experience before and I really appreciate it,” she said, adding she’d love to continue with the sport if another opportunity to attend the Games came along, though she plans to focus mainly on soccer.

Skier Kiera Hall, who won bronze in the district relay and silver in the five-kilometre classic race, said it was fun having athletes from all around Ontario in her hometown.

“It’s nice that I don’t have to fly down to Ottawa, take two flights. I can just come to Lappe, where I’ve been my whole life and just go,” the Superior Collegiate teen said.

There’s still plenty of action to come this weekend, when the Games resume. Biathlon, archery, artistic swimming, hockey, curling, five-pin bowling and fencing are all on the schedule.

Streib said he can’t wait.

“Seven new sports are going to be as exciting as this first weekend. We’re starting on Friday and we’ve got our opening ceremonies again to welcome the new athletes coming to our community and that’s going to be great,” he said. “Then the competition starts.”

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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