MISSISSAUGA – Susan Harris has had the privilege of volunteering at three Pan American Games in Indianapolis (1987), Argentina (1995) and Winnipeg (1999).
A co-founder of Gymnastics Mississauga in 1969, Harris recalls the pride she felt in volunteering as a judge in Winnipeg.
“When the Canadian women beat the Americans to win the all-around team gold, I had tears in my eyes,” Harris said. “I was so moved by their accomplishment. They didn’t make any mistakes and the others did.”
She hopes to feel that same pride over the next two weeks as the Hershey Centre plays host to the Senior Pan American Gymnastics Championships from Aug. 19 to Sept. 1.
The championships are a qualifier for next year’s Pan American Games in Toronto from July 10-26.
At this afternoon’s Pan Am Championships press conference at the Hershey SportZone, Harris said the Hershey Centre is a top-notch facility for hosting an event of this calibre.
Acting mayor Chris Fonseca echoed that assessment and she wasn’t alone in that regard.
“If Mayor McCallion was here, I know she’d say you’re in a centre that is second to none,” Fonseca said. “(To have) 300 competitors from over 20 countries here in Mississauga vying for medals and also the opportunity to gain a spot on the Pan American team is just wonderful. Hopefully we’ll be seeing you back here for the Pan American Games next year.”
The upcoming meet will be the biggest international gymnastics event Mississauga has hosted since 2000, when the city welcomed gymnasts from eight top countries to the Hershey Centre for the Millennium Meet, an invitational competition that served as a warmup for the Summer Olympics in Sydney later that year.
Over the next two weeks, the Hershey Centre will welcome more than 300 gymnasts from 20 countries. Olympic medalists Rosie MacClennan, Karen Cockburn and Jason Burnett are among Canada’s most notable athletes who will be in action.
Mississauga’s Katrina Cameron, a member of Canada’s 2012 rhythmic gymnastics team, will be competing with her squad while fellow Mississaugan Jordyn Pederson will be one of seven gymnasts on Canada’s rhythmic gymnastics team.
MacLennan, who won 2012 Olympic Gold in the trampoline event, spoke for all Canadian athletes in saying she was excited to compete on home soil.
“It’s an opportunity for us to welcome all of these incredible athletes and share our passion for the sport,” she said. “We get to feel the energy of the home crowd and it’s not very often we get the chance to do that.”
By Iain Colpitts