Over 3,000 athletes ranging in age and skill level participated in Canada’s largest indoor invitational international track and field meet, the Knights of Columbus Indoor Games.
The action packed weekend began with the elementary school relay on Thursday, plus a visit from former participant and Olympic gold medalist, Donovan Bailey.
Bailey was named Canadian Athlete of the Meet in 1996.
“He’s been really good,” said Gil Wist, president of the organizing committee for the Knights of Columbus Indoor Games. “I think he’s inspired a lot of kids to get involved, stay with sport, set yourself some goals and work towards that.”
The competition on Saturday featuring a combination of local athletes rubbing shoulders with some top-level international competitors looking to get a head start on the summer outdoor season.
“This is my third indoor meet,” said Nick Andrews, who came from Australia and is training in Arizona currently. “I usually don’t train indoors in Australia because there’s no need for an indoor track. So it’s my third and last race indoors, but it does kick off that outdoor season that starts for me February 23rd.”
For one local athlete who competed at this event as a youngster, and is now at the invitational level, it was a rare opportunity to learn from one of Canada’s best ever.
“I actually got to talk to Olympian Donovan Bailey after my victory in the invitational,” said Kat Gilbert, member of the Saskatoon Track and Field Club. “He gave me some pointers and I’m just so glad that he was able to watch my race and just get some really good tips from a world class professional, so I’m thankful.”
Gilbert is graduating high school this year and has plans to attend Monmouth University next year to continue her academic and athletic career.
At a meet like this, she says it’s important to stay focused even with high profile competitors all around.
“I was fairly nervous at the beginning,” said Gilbert. “But then I just realized how much I love running, and the nerves kind of went away and it was good.”
While she admits she still has lots to learn, Gilbert has advice for athletes who are just starting out.
“You just need to be patient. You have to learn to race against yourself, and also be competitive at the same time.”
No matter the age of the competitor, everybody got something out of this special weekend, including new memories.
“There was one in particular that sticks out,” said Wist. “He got his shoe signed by Donovan Bailey. He turned around, jumped up in the air and said ‘Yeah! He signed my shoe!’ so just to see the enthusiasm has been great.
While it was a special weekend for the athletes, it was also a celebration of 100 years of the Knights of Columbus in Saskatchewan.
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