By Estefania Wujkiw
The early birds at the CanoeKayak morning heats were a tremendous crowd of proud parents and coaches. The paddlers' team spirits were also high, as athletes created a warm ambiance of camaraderie with upbeat music and cheers.
Jillian Perrone, canoer for Team Ontario, won a gold medal with her teammate Rowan Hardy-Kavanagh in the C2 200 and 500 metre races. So far, she has had a great time racing in Winnipeg.
"I know that nationals typically aren't hosted here, but I don't see any reason for it not to be after Winnipeg displaying Canada Games so well," said Jillian.
Photo: Keith Levit
With finals taking place today, celebrations are not planned quite yet, but she is looking forward to the closing ceremonies.
"We're really excited for the closing ceremonies because that's when all the sports can come together, which I think is the best part about Canada Games. It's really cool to see athletes from different sports and provinces come together," she said.
Making friends with athletes in other disciplines has also been one of the best parts for kayaker Nicolas Thirion of Team Quebec.
"We are having fun. We're all doing activities between races together and cheering other sports on, and then they're interested in coming to see us too," he said.
Photo: Ian McCausland
Nicolas won a gold medal with his teammates in the K4 1,000 metre race and a silver medal in the K2 1,000 metre race.
"The racing experience is awesome; the level of competition is really high so there's a challenge on every race," he said.
It was the first Canada Games experience for Naomi Stevens, who at 15-years-old is the youngest canoer on Team Manitoba. Her coach describes her as a shining light with the best team spirit, and he says by the next Games she should be the star.
Her experience has been really exciting and super fun.
"Being here is the best part. Just getting that adrenaline kick to go faster in the team boats, and working together," said Naomi.
Her brother, Sam Stevens, also competes in the sport of canoe, and both of them have made it to finals in some of their races.