Canada Games

Not all Canada Games athletes have a teammate to lean on

The Canadian Press
2/17/2011 2:48:21 PM
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HALIFAX -- At the Canada Games, sometimes there is an 'I' in team.

Even when he wasn't tumbling through the air during competition in Halifax, artistic gymnast Zack Sullivan was flying solo for the Northwest Territories at his first Games.

"I never pictured myself being 'the guy' from N.W.T," said Sullivan, 16, who's a member of the Yellowknife Gymnastics Club.

"It's kind of overwhelming to be the only one that everyone's counting on."

Sullivan, who placed 34th in the all-around male finals on his last day of competition this week, has the distinction of being the only one-person team at the Halifax Games.

Most other teams competing in his sport included at least three athletes from the same province or territory.

While Sullivan's one-man army is unique, there are a number of teams that have only one male or female competing, including in long-track speedskating. Fifteen-year-old Lindsay Devison from the Halifax suburb of Hammonds Plains was the only female to compete for Nova Scotia in that sport.

In Sullivan's case, the gymnastics facility where he trains is the only high-performance club in the Northwest Territories. He likely would have had a teammate join him on the East Coast if it weren't for injuries in the months leading up the competition.

Despite the added pressure, the Grade 11 student said he was confident well-wishers back home would be happy with any result as long as he did his best.

For the most part, he said being the lone member of the team was "cool." But Sullivan admitted getting mentally prepared for competition was challenging without having teammates standing beside him.

"There's definitely a lot more self-motivation," said Sullivan, who listens to his favourite band, A Day to Remember, to get amped up for competitions.

"Normally I do have other gymnasts from my team competing with me at other competitions and that's a little more relaxing because I know they're in this with me."

Sullivan, who aspires to work in biology some day, said he fell into gymnastics 10 years ago after trying his hand at hockey and soccer.

On his first day at the Games on Monday, he landed a troublesome manoeuvre on the vault for the first time in competition, proving his efforts are paying off.

"He's a great athlete," said coach John Tram. "He works hard and he's a great role model for the kids. He has a lot of determination."

Tram said Sullivan has potential that could take him to the Olympics if he continues to improve, though it's not a goal they have their sights set on now.

But should it happen some day, Sullivan would no longer be "the guy" -- he'd be surrounded by teammates all wearing Canada's colours.

"Everyone hopes for the Olympics and it's a big goal for everyone," said Sullivan. "But wherever I go is what I'll be happy with."

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