Golden finish for Alberta

Athletes rode on shoulders, hoisted huge banners and tossed fistfuls of pins up into the crowd as Canada’s largest multi-sport event came to a close in the country’s smallest province Saturday.

Team Alberta reacts after defeating Ontario to win gold in men’s volleyball to close out the Canada Games in Charlottetown on Saturday.

CHARLOTTETOWN — Athletes rode on shoulders, hoisted huge banners and tossed fistfuls of pins up into the crowd as Canada’s largest multi-sport event came to a close in the country’s smallest province Saturday.

Ontario captured the Flag as the top-scoring province at the Canada Summer Games in a tight race that came down to the final two days of competition. Ontario finished with 274 points, edging B.C., which was second with 256. Quebec finished third with 244, earning the Centennial Cup as the most improved province.

“All of our teams performed well beyond expectations,” said Ontario’s chef d’mission Blair McIntosh.

“We’ve always had high expectations of our athletes, but they really came through. We were behind after Week 1 and for them to come back and surpass the deficit we were in, it was kudos to them.”

Canada Games awards a Flag to the top province based on points scored by every athlete, not just top-three finishes.

Perennial powerhouse Ontario, the Flag winner in 17 of the past 21 Games, also led the medal standings in P.E.I., with 202 (70 gold, 68 silver, 64 bronze). Quebec was second with 145 (42-53-50), while B.C. was third with 144 medals (57-43-44).

Host P.E.I. won the Jack Pelech award for sportsmanship, and also collected a P.E.I.-record four Summer Games medals, two in track — a gold by Matt Caseley in hammer throw and bronze by Kurt McCormack in triple jump — and two in wrestling — gold by Veronica Keefe and silver by Jillian Durant.

Olympic sprinter and homegrown islander Jared Connaughton said the Games have definitely left their mark.

“The Canada Games is such an amazing thing and it’s done so much for my community,” Connaughton told the crowd gathered at the new $6.8 million Alumni Canada Games Place for the closing ceremonies. “Only years ago this very place was a swamp almost, this has come so far and the legacy of the Canada Games isn’t just these two weeks, but it’s the legacy that will carry on for future athletes.

“I hope my province, my beloved little island, has enriched your athletic abilities and has enriched your souls and you’ll take this experience onto the bigger and bigger stage.”

Some 4,400 athletes and coaches took part in the Games, which marked the first time an entire province has played host. Sports were held at venues across the province, with the crown jewel being the Alumni Canada Games Place at UPEI, site of track and field.

“The 2009 Canada Games Host Society always envisioned making our event one that would inspire dreams and build champions,” said 2009 Games president Joseph Spriet. “I’m so proud we met that goal. Together we hosted a Canada Games which will live on in the memories of everyone it touched.”

While Games officials said final ticket sale numbers had not yet been tallied, they said they’d already met their goal of $500,000 at the end of Week 1.

“P.E.I. did an outstanding job, they obviously had a big challenge of going province-wide and for whatever expectations we had, they surpassed those,” McIntosh said.

Competition wrapped up with three gold-medal games Saturday. Abdoulaye Sylla of Pierrefonds and Alessandro Riggi of Montreal scored to lead Quebec to a 2-0 victory over Alberta for the gold in men’s soccer. Springbrook’s Brad Hughes back stopped Alberta to the silver and picked up one of three tournament MVP’s in the process.

Justin Maheu of Oakville and Allando Matheson of Toronto scored to lead Ontario 2-1 over Nova Scotia for bronze.

Alberta captured gold in men’s volleyball with a 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 29-27) win over Ontario. B.C. won the bronze, beating Manitoba 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-17). Blackfalds’ Spencer Leiske had 11 kills a dig and was in on three blocks. The team also featured Red Deer’s Mitch Irvine and Mikiah Schalk and manager Paul Armbruster from Three Hills.

Manitoba won the women’s volleyball gold over Ontario 3-1 (18-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-21). Alberta took the bronze, beating Nova Scotia 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-21). Innisfail’s Jessica Clutton had seven kills and seven digs while Lacombe’s Katie Graves had seven kills, three digs and was in on four blocks. Red Deer’s Quinn Schulzke chipped in with one dig.

Three sports made their Games debut — triathlon, golf and open-water swimming — and they all favoured B.C., which swept the gold medals in all three. Rugby may have made its final appearance; it’s not on the schedule for the 2013 Games. Ontario upset B.C. in the men’s rugby final in Week 1.

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