Carrying a flag in a parade might not be as challenging as staying upright on a balance beam, but doing both this week are massive milestones for Yellowknife gymnast Maggie Carson.
Maggie, 14, was the flag bearer for Team Northwest Territories at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2019 Canada Winter Games on Friday night in Red Deer. Just two years ago, Maggie had life-saving emergency surgery after a competition in Vancouver where doctors discovered a tumour on the left side of her brain.
After a tough meet where she twisted both ankles on floor exercises, Maggie woke up and couldn’t speak or hold things in her hands. Coach Desiree Gautreau rushed her to hospital.
“Doctors found a brain tumour. When I think about it, it kind of scares me. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t tell them how I was feeling,” says Maggie, who spent the next two weeks in hospital.
She has not competed since. The Canada Games will mark Maggie’s return to competition along with having the honoured role as flag-bearer for her territory.
“I had some nerves, but I’m really excited about carrying the flag. It’s an amazing opportunity,” she says. “I’m really pumped to represent NWT.”
The Opening Ceremonies featured a star-studded lineup at the sold-out Enmax Centrium with more than 7,000 people in attendance and a national TV audience on TSN.
Over 600 performers put on a colourful and festive performance produced by Patrick Roberge, the show’s creative director. The Opening Ceremony welcomed athletes and celebrated the community. Notable performers included Franco Albertan singer Mireille Moquin and award-winning country artist Brett Kissel.During the Opening Ceremony marked the end of the first-ever national MNP Canada Games Torch Relay. The Games Cauldron was lit by Canadian national team long-track speed skater Maddison Pearman of Ponoka, Alta., and Red Deer native and Canadian national trampoline team athlete Mark Armstrong. The Governor General of Canada, Julie Payette, then officially declared the Games open.
These are the flag bearers for each of the provinces and territories:
Newfoundland – Michael Drover (Artistic Gymnastics)
Nova Scotia – Alex Watters (Artistic Gymnastics)
Alberta – Elijah Thompson (Artistic Gymnastics)
British Columbia – Fin Williams (Hockey)
Ontario – Mackenzie Turner (Biathlon)
Saskatchewan – Logan Pletz (Biathlon)
Manitoba – Alana Lesperance (Ringette)
Quebec – Sara Plouffe (Ringette)
New Brunswick – Britany Snowdon (Ringette)
Prince Edward Island – Cameron Davis (Artistic Gymnastics)
Northwest Territories- Maggie Carson (Artistic Gymnastics)
Yukon – Kyron Crosby (Hockey)
Nunavut – Maxwell Joy (Hockey)
For Carson, she’ll put the flag aside and step in front of judges at the Collicutt Centre on Sunday for the first time since her surgery and chemotherapy treatments.
“This definitely gave me new perspective about almost everything – it makes me think about the more positive side of everything because your life can change at any moment,” says the Grade 9 student at Ecole St. Patrick in Yellowknife. “My goal is to do my best on Sunday see how far I can get and have some fun.”
The top three gymnasts from each province advance to individual apparatus finals.”
Says TEAM NT coach John Tram: “We’re super honoured and proud to have Maggie represent us. She’s a remarkable person to lead us into the Opening Ceremony.