The Canada Games have been an important event in my life. I was first involved as a volunteer at the first ever Canada Winter Games in Quebec City in 1967. I then went on to become an official at the 1969 Canada Summer Games in Halifax where I was a High Jump judge. Then, I refereed wrestling for the first time at the Canada Games in 1975 in Lethbridge. My last Canada Games were this past summer in Winnipeg where I refereed my last match for the Games.
Through my storied career refereeing this great event, I have witnessed and lived many amazing moments. Perhaps the most emotional for me was this past summer when I met a young wrestler from Nunavut named Manuel Netser.
I refereed a match in the dual section of the Games where Manuel was about to wrestle a Manitoba athlete. I go to the center of the mat to check both wrestlers out. As I turn to check Manuel out I do a double take. This kid looked just like me when I was his age. Bright eyed, very young and naïve.
I cleaned him down and the match began. He wrestled hard but in the end the Manitoba athlete won. Manuel came back to the centre holding back years. I raised the winner's hand, they both went to opposite corners to shake hands with the opposing coaches, and then return to their respective corners.
At this point, Manuel collapsed in tears into the arms of his coach. I felt so sad for this young boy. I walked over to Manuel and told him to hold his head up high because he fought hard and deserved a better fate. I then told him I had a gift for him and to come back to see me the next morning.
At the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke I was able to my hands on this great Team Nunavut flag. I had kept it these last 4 years and this was the perfect time to gift it.
Lo and behold, the first person I see the next morning at my mat is Manuel. I get the flag from my kit bag and go over to him and present it to him. As you can see in the below photo, he is very proud.
Manuel proceeded to wrestle that day and unfortunately go tossed by his opponent and suffered a forearm injury. He was taken to get medical attention but before leaving he asked his dad: “where’s my flag”? His mom went over to his corner, retrieved the flag, and draped it over him.
I made sure to get his mom’s information as I wanted to make sure Manuel was alright. She send me a photo of him resting comfortably later that day, ready to heal up. I still keep in touch with his mom and Manuel is currently hoping to wrestle later this February.