Organizers thrilled as 2019 Games end with a bang for Team Alberta

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
March 2, 2019 - 11:19pm

A record 100 medals wasn’t exactly on the radar for Team Alberta at the 2019 Canada Winter Games, but that mark goes to show how much the home athletes stepped up over the last two weeks.

Going into the final day of competition Saturday with a record-high 93 medals in-hand, Alberta added seven more, including gold in women’s hockey. Captain Danielle Serdachny and her squad defeated Quebec in a 2-1 nail-biter that came right down to the wire.

“It’s pretty unbelievable. I’m still in shock right now, but it’s super exciting and I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life,” the Edmonton native said post-game. “Just the energy we had, we all bought into the systems and believed in each other, and that helped us a lot.”

“Our goalie stood on her head,” added Serdachny, who had an assist on the game-winning goal.

The Downtown Arena, as well as the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, were packed full of loud and crazy fans. At the latter, Alberta won three more medals on the final day.

Athletes came through winning bronze in both the male and female squash team competitions. Next door in the gymnasium, Alberta earned gold in what was a thrilling series of ties between the home team and Quebec, which Alberta ultimately took 3-2.

Alberta also took silver and bronze in women’s ski cross at Canyon Ski Resort, and then the bronze at River Bend in the cross country skiing relay mixed event.

Pat Lechelt, Chef de Mission for Team Alberta, said those working behind the scenes to push the athletes to victory are thrilled.

“Our goal was to come in third at these Games, and we’ve accomplished that,” she said. “We didn’t expect this actually.”

For Alberta’s efforts, they were given the Canada Games Centennial Cup on Saturday, which goes to the province or territory who has improved the most since the previous Games. Alberta last won the award when it hosted the Canada Games in 1995 in Grande Prairie. Alberta was also bestowed with the Jack Pelech trophy, which goes to the province or territory which best combines competitive performance, good sportsmanship, cooperation, and friendship.

Newfoundland & Labrador won the Claude Hardy award, which recognizes the talents and dedication of a provincial or territorial Mission Team. Hardy was an athlete at the first Canada Games in 1967.

The 2019 Red Deer Games wouldn’t have been the success they were without the support of the community, which Mayor Tara Veer touched on during a press conference prior to the closing ceremony.

“This has proven to be a community effort like no other. Our message to the people of our country and our commitment was that we were ready to host the Games with excellence,” she stated. “We hope that our country feels that we’ve delivered on that promise in an exceptional way. Today, our message is thank you, but also be proud Red Deer and central Alberta.”

Perhaps no one is feeling more emotional now that the Games are over than Board Chair Lyn Radford.

“The whole Games, from start to finish, have been magical. Red Deer really hit it out of the park. I’m trying to be modest, but it’s really hard,” Radford remarked. “One of the things I’m really proud of is that there’s going to be a really big transfer of knowledge to the future Games hosted in 2021 in Niagara and 2023 in PEI. We hope they can build on our successes.”

If she would change anything, Radford admitted that the weather was a bit of a thorn in the side of organizers.

“That’s the only thing I can honestly say I would change, if it could’ve been a little warmer, but I’d much rather deal with what we dealt with than having to deal with chinooks and above zero temperatures,” she added. “The team was exceptional in adjusting and we did it.”

Saturday was capped off with the closing ceremony at the Westerner Park Centrium, which featured the athletes entering the arena in a kaleidoscope of colours. Red Deer's Kalena Soehn, who won a gold medal in trampoline, was the province's official flagbearer.

Following the parade of athletes, a rousing rendition of O' Canada was performed in English, French and Cree by an Aboriginal women's trio from Edmonton. Musical performances from Scott Helman, Gord Bamford, Kayla Williams and Paul Cournoyer also kept the crowd moving throughout the evening. 

Former Olympians and Canada Games athletes, including Red Deer's own Deidra Dionne, addressed the athletes. Veer, Radford and incoming Canada Games Council Chair Evan Johnston also shared words of appreciation for the 3600+ athletes and 4600+ volunteers.

"Planning a multi-sport event of this stature takes years of preparation, and the host society did an incredible job ensuring the games in Red Deer were a life-changing experience for everyone involved," Johnston said earlier in the day. "I can also tell you firsthand that this group of volunteers made everyone who came to Red Deer feel at home."

During the closing ceremony, the Canada Games flag was handed to the organizers of the 2021 Games in the Niagara region.

The Host Society plans to unveil more post-Games numbers related to economic impact and exit surveys done by athletes and coaches sometime in the fall.

To look back at rdnewsNOW's coverage of the 2019 Canada Winter Games, visit our dedicated Games page.

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