Red Deer trampolinist Kalena Soehn can hardly wait to show off her hometown to fellow athletes from across the province this weekend.
Soehn will help welcome about 250 Team Alberta competitors to Red Deer Saturday when they gather to familiarize themselves with the city and their venues before the Feb. 15 start of the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
“It should be very fun,” said the Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School graduate, who’s been competing in trampoline events for the past 11 years.
Arriving athletes will be mostly 12 to 19 years of age — although some sports include competitors in their early 20s, said Guy Napert-Frenette, media liaison for Team Alberta.
“They’ve been excited for months now,” he added, and the feeling will only grow with less than 30 days to go before the games open.
Soehn, a 19-year-old University of Calgary student, recalls the fellowship with other competitors from across Canada as the best part of the last Canada Winter Games, held in Prince George, B.C., in 2016.
“There was always something going, on, something to do in the athletes’ village, so many people to connect with.
“There’s so much friendly camaraderie when everyone gets together,” added Soehn, who looks forward to Saturday’s orientation and predicts the Red Deer Games “are going to be great!”
About 340 athletes, coaches, managers and staff of Team Alberta will be staying at the Sheraton Hotel on Saturday, where they will attend an information session about where they will be staying and where to go for accreditation and meals.
Napert-Frenette said the athletes will get their uniforms, name their flag bearer and banner holder for the opening ceremony, and get the low-down about what to expect at Canada’s largest multi-sport competition.
Most of the athletes will take advantage of an important training opportunity at the venues they will be competing at next month, he added.
Although archery, judo and boxing contenders will be practising at local clubs because they can’t get into Westerner Park, athletes in alpine and snowboarding events will be at their games venue, Canyon Ski Resort.
Local residents can get a sneak preview of Team Alberta athletes practising badminton, figure skating, wheelchair basketball, short-track speed skating and squash at the Garry W. Harris Canada Games Centre from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Gymnastics, trampoline and ringette athletes will be orienting themselves at the Collicutt Centre, while biathlon and cross-country ski competitors will be on the trails at River Bend Golf Course. Artistic swimmers will be practising at the Red Deer Recreation Centre.
A hockey game will be played Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Collicutt Centre rink. Spectators are welcome, and are asked to bring donations of winter mitts for clients of The Mustard Seed.
Meanwhile, 110 speedskaters will be at Red Deer’s Great Chief Park oval on Saturday and Sunday to compete in the Jeremy Wotherspoon Open. This is the first official race since the oval was completed last winter.