Red Deer laid out the welcome mat for the 2019 Canada Winter Games home team.
Most of Team Alberta’s 250 athletes and another 90 coaches, managers and mission staff got a look at where they will be living, eating and competing in the games, which run Feb. 15 to March 3.
They all gathered at Red Deer College’s Arts Centre on Saturday for inspirational videos and a rundown of the logistics of the games, which will bring thousands of athletes to the city. About 3,600 athletes will be staying on Red Deer College campus, many in the newly completed student residence.
Team Alberta has announced Calgary artistic gymnast Elijah Thompson will have the honour of carrying the flag into the opening ceremonies at the Enmax Centrium on Feb. 15.
Winter games chair Lyn Radford said planning for the sports spectacle began seven years ago.
“I can’t believe it’s only 27 days until the opening ceremonies,” she told Saturday’s crowd.
Chef de mission Pat Lechelt applauded the work of organizers and the city in getting ready for the games.
“Red Deer has done Alberta proud,” she said. “I know we, Team Alberta, are looking so forward to coming to the games.”
Saturday’s event, which allowed many athletes to visit their venues and practise where they will be competing, gave them a taste of what’s to come.
“Being here today is giving them a mini Canada Games experience. It’s giving them that home province advantage and I think their eyes are just wide open and (they’re) so, so excited to be here.”
Lechelt said the facilities are “amazing.
“I think our athletes are going to have a great competition here. Red Deer people should be so proud of what’s been done.”
Edmonton boxer Fausto Santoro is among those ready to compete.
“I feel good. I feel relaxed. I feel really happy to be here. It’s an honour to be here,” said Santoro.
“The training’s been going good. I’ve been working non stop, no days off, just pushing it to the limit, you know.”
He began boxing almost three years ago to get in shape and was hooked.
“I’ve also loved boxing since I was a young kid. It’s really part of my culture, being Italian. There are a lot of great Italian boxers, so I wanted to be like them.”
Team Alberta athletes are being drawn from nearly 50 communities and will compete in 19 sports. The youngest is 10-year-old Calgarian Emily Liu, who will compete in table tennis.
For more information on Team Alberta go to albertasport.ca/team-alberta