Canadian athletes come together to compete and make friends

By , Special to the Christian Science Monitor

The Olympic ideals of friendly competition and camaraderie sometimes get lost in the nationalistic fervor of the Games themselves. Indeed, a better place to look for this sort of thing is at the various national competitions held in non-Olympic years -- such as the quadrennial Canada Summer Games now in progress here. Over a 14-day period concluding this weekend, some 3,200 Olympic hopefuls and lesser athletes from two territories and 10 provinces have been testing their stamina and skills in track and field, swimming, soccer, basketball, and more than a dozen other sports.

Some will go on to the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinboro, Scotland, while the ultimate goal, of course, is the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

Beyond the thrill of competition, many participants are experiencing the joys of meeting and living among fellow sportsmen and women from all over Canada. Exchanging pins is one way of celebrating their camaraderie, as a diving official explained to me during a chance meeting on the ferry taking us across the Bay of Fundy.

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``A lot of the athletes here have team pins,'' said Peter Boudreau, who was decked out in a colorful array of pins that included miniature shields and flags from various Canadian provinces, cities, territories, and villages.

``Some athletes will trade their pins, some will give them away, and some of them are very scarce,'' he said.

Boudreau said the games were a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for him, particularly when divers from his native Nova Scotia -- not heretofore known for its prowess in this sport -- won four medals in the men's events.

``We took three golds and a bronze,'' he beamed.

Spectator interest has been high throughout the games, especially in the water sports, where Canada's success at Los Angeles (four gold medals and 14 overall) obviously has sparked a growing emphasis.

``Since Sylvie Bernier won a women's diving gold, we are getting get more divers involved,'' Boudreau said, adding that the same holds true for the example set by gold medalists Alex Baumann, Victor Davis, Anne Ottenbrite and their swimming colleagues.

In addition to working the diving events and rooting for his favorites, Boudreau proved himself a sound negotiator in the pin-collecting game. In order to get this interview, in fact, I had to give up a friendship pin that displayed the Canadian and US flags located side-by-side!

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