August 04, 2015
Leading up to the Western Canada Summer Games, Lexy Vincent has been working to keep her mind sharp. "For me, it's all about focus,' said Vincent, an 18-year-old kayaker from Regina. "I know what I want going into the Games and I know how to achieve that. The only thing is keeping a steady mindset.' Vincent is one of the 390 Saskatchewan athletes, coaches and managers heading to the Wood Buffalo municipality, located in northeastern Alberta and including Fort McMurray, for a chance at a medal.
More than 70 Saskatchewan communities will be represented at the Games, which are to begin Friday and run until Aug. 16.
Vincent has been paddling since she was six years old and is no stranger to the pressures of representing her province.
She competed at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., where she brought home a bronze medal in the women's K1 1,000 metres.
Vincent also competed in this year's Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C., as a cross-country skier. She has been a skier since she was young, and said it's a great way to maintain her fitness level leading up to the paddling season.
Vincent won't be the only multi-talented participant heading to Wood Buffalo.
Andrea Wolf of Wapella (about 200 kilometres east of Regina) will be coaching the Saskatchewan women's softball team at the Games. Wolf represented Saskatchewan at the 1989 Canada Summer Games in Saskatoon as a member of the women's field hockey team. That experience proved to be very useful as she made the transition to coaching.
"What I like is the process of preparing the kids and guiding them because I've had the experience of being there as well," she said.
Wolf, whose daughter Chelsea is on the softball team, also took part in the Coaching Association of Canada's Women in Coaching program.
She was one of two coaches from the province selected to take part in the 2013 Canada Games as an apprentice coach. She said the experience was invaluable, especially when learning about preparing her team and scouting the competition.
Wolf and the softball team got a head start on matching up with the competition. The team had a weekend "border battle" with Team Manitoba in Fleming (near the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border) two weeks before the start of the Games.
In the four exhibition meetings, Saskatchewan finished with a 1-2-1 record, with both losses being by one run.
The team's play in the exhibition games has left Wolf feeling confident that Saskatchewan will be making an appearance in the gold-medal game.
"I think we prepared them enough offensively and defensively,' Wolf said.
"I think now it's just scouting other teams and making sure we match up our pitchers as best we can."
But in the time leading up to the Games, during which the team is to play nine round-robin games in three days, Wolf is trying to keep the team grounded and focused.
"We've worked on a lot of the mental training side - things where they can visualize (so) when they get into the competition, they are able to stay calm, relaxed and focused," she said.
Lorne Lasuita of Regina, the chef de mission for Team Saskatchewan, has been equally busy in preparation for the Games.
He and the team's staff have been busy with logistics and ensuring all those travelling to Wood Buffalo have the best experience possible.
"It's going to be pretty exciting,' Lasuita said. "They are really going to enjoy the experience. It'll be second to none - a thrill of a lifetime for them."
Not only that, but Lasuita also recognizes that the competition will be a "carrot" for athletes who are looking to springboard to greater things.
"Hopefully we will see a lot of these athletes going to a Canada Games or making a provincial team to go to a national competition or just going to a national competition in an individual sport," he said.
A complete Team Saskatchewan roster appears in Local Scoreboard.