The Ontario Summer Games kicked off with a spirited Opening Ceremonies last Thursday evening at London, Ont.’s packed TD Stadium, creating a competitive mood and plenty of excitement for the young athletes. Olympic decathlon gold-medallist Damian Warner was among the celebrities who welcomed the more than 2,000 young athletes ages 12 to 18 competing in both team and individual sports.
Kolton Kowalchuk is the High Performance Manager for Athletics Ontario, responsible for developing strategies to ensure that Ontario athletes and coaches have the best opportunities to succeed on a national and international level. “These are the top athletes in their age groups (U14 & U16) in Ontario,” says Kowalchuk. “Our athletes move upwards through our performance pathways system, with the goal that they go to the Canada Games and onwards in to multi-sport games. We get them involved in multi-sport events early, so they get used to staying in in an athlete’s village with athletes in different sports.”
“A lot of our kids have had PBs,” said Kowalchuk. “It gives them an opportunity to get out in front of a large crowd and have some fun, along with the coaching staff…it’s also a good opportunity for them as some of them have never taken part in a multi-sport event.”
Canadian Running caught up with one young athlete in particular. Madison Wilson-Walker, 21, is a para-athlete from London who runs on blades and trains with the London Western Track and Field Club. (At this meet para-athletes compete in a separate category, but at other meets she often competes alongside able-bodied athletes.)
“My teammates treat me like any other athlete,” she says. “I get the same workouts and have the same coach as the other athletes.”
When asked how able-bodied athletes view her running with blades, Wilson-Walker replies,“Some athletes… think that running with blades is a competitive advantage. When I’m competing with able-bodied athletes, I can keep up with some of them, but not all of them, so I don’t think it’s an advantage.”