Nicole Russel has never been a part of the Power Smart Manitoba Winter Games before, but the 13-year-old Brandonite expects to make a lot of great memories when this year’s event starts on Sunday.
The Games run through March 8 in Morden, Winkler and the RM of Stanley, and Russel will be there for the whole thing. She’ll represent the Westman region in gymnastics during the first half of the week and then in badminton for the second half of the event.
She has also been named Westman’s flag bearer for the opening ceremonies and can’t wait for the Winter Games to start.
"I’m really excited and kind of nervous because it’s my first time," said Russel, who will compete in the junior female singles badminton tournament as well as the provincial stream 12-year-old female gymnastics competition.
"It means a lot to me because I really want to win and I trained really hard. Hopefully I can win some kind of prize."
Russel had a very busy month to qualify for the Manitoba Games. She was the best competitor in her class and age group at the Westman gymnastics qualifying event in December and made the badminton team in a tryout during the same month in Souris.
While she’s not sure how she’ll fare in either event, Russel believes she can be competitive in both.
"I just have to play hard (in badminton)," she said. "I play with boys when I go and train, so my goal is to beat them.
"For gymnastics, I just try my best and try to do the routines perfectly."
Russel is one of 131 athletes who will represent Westman at the Manitoba Games in seven different sports, and there are some high medal hopes in a few of those sports.
One of those events is figure skating, as Westman’s squad has Brandonites Tori Thiessen, Kirsten Gutenberg and Taylor McMurdo in the competitive Level 2 event. Those three placed first, second and third in the novice girls’ category at the Manitoba Sectionals in December.
Hartney’s Casey Bertholet, who will also be in the competitive Level 2 field, won the pre-novice event at Sectionals and was followed by Brandon’s Courtney Morken, who will also be at the Manitoba Games.
Lindsey Kyle, Team Westman’s regional manager, hopes that the gymnasts, hockey teams and curling teams can push for the podium as well.
One of the things she’s most proud of about her Westman contingent is that there are seven cross-country skiers representing the region.
"It’s awesome because we have seven athletes and it’s a first for Westman to have cross-country skiing," she said.
"(The athletes) are spread pretty wide across our region, but they know each other and compete together, so it’s pretty exciting."
While there will be a lot of athletes representing Westman at the Games, some local players will be there with other regions, and Brandonite Emma Greenwood is one of them. The 15-year-old didn’t crack Westman’s women’s hockey team, but was picked up to play for NorMan, which was short a goalie.
This will be Greenwood’s second trip to the Manitoba Games — she played softball at the 2012 Summer Games in Swan Valley — but knows this one will be different. Most of her friends are on the Westman hockey team, but she’s looking forward to a chance to meet new people.
"I was kind of excited to meet some new people and get a chance to play with different people and get a chance to go," the 5-foot-11 netminder said. "I’d rather go than not go at all."
Greenwood hasn’t been with her NorMan teammates since an orientation camp in December and expects the first game to be a little rough for communication, but hopes it will smooth out as the tournament goes on.
The Winter Games open with cross-country skiing, gymnastics, ringette, boys’ hockey and girls’ and boys’ curling from Sunday to Wednesday. Badminton, figure skating, girls’ hockey as well as mixed doubles curling and Special Olympics curling will follow from Wednesday to March 8. Westman is not represented in wrestling or table tennis, both of which run in the second half of the week.
While Kyle is hoping for a solid showing from the region’s athletes at the Games, she also knows where they place in their events isn’t the most important part of the competition.
"We’d like to go in there and win a few medals, but at the end of the day it’s about the team and how much fun they’ve had," she said.
Tyler Thompson, Souris; Katherine Lee, Brandon; Nicole Russel, Brandon; Brendon Agland, Souris; Riley Chen, Brandon; Sarah Palson, Souris; Adam Kowalchuk, Souris; Daly Chartrand, Neepawa; Brooklyn Chartrand, Neepawa; Krista Grieve, Virden; Kara Ellis, Neepawa; Jasper Stone, Souris; Adam Lamb, Souris; Olivia Pieroni, Brandon; Jaydan Sisson, Brandon; Amber Ryan McDonald, Brookdale.
Zachary Enns, Neepawa; Joshua Enns, Neepawa; Imogen Nadlersmith, Boissevain; Gideon Nadlersmith, Boissevain; Eveline Juce, Hamiota; Cali Yates, Onanole; Katherine Mazur, Erickson.
Jackson William, Souris; Dori-Anne Vince, Carberry; Danica Fitzsimmons, Carberry; Kyle Gardiner, Brandon; Brayden Payette, Brandon; Kaitlyn Payette, Brandon; Teanna Olmstead, Carberry; Marc Vachon, Oak Lake; Michelle McFarlane, Carberry.
SPECIAL OLYMPICS CURLING
Shannon Bauche, Brandon; Wayne Bauche, Brandon; Harvey Chambers, Brandon; Sandra Revet, Brandon; Arthur Haggstrom, Brandon; Ted Mullens, Brandon; Scott Madder, Brandon; Rickey LaRoque, Brandon; Tammy Lumax, Brandon; Trent Gussie, Brandon; Jeffrey Gardiner, Brandon; Daryn Thomson, Brandon; James Almas, Brandon; Ian Swain, Shilo; Roger Skayman, Brandon; Michael Lee, Brandon; Michelle Ranson, Brandon; Darla Cunningham, Brandon.
Courtney Morken, Brandon; Amy Todoruk, Neepawa; Annika Duguay, Carberry; Kirsten Gutenberg, Brandon; Taylor McMurdo, Brandon; Taryn Gwynne, Brandon; Tori Thiessen, Brandon; Marijka Popadynetz, Brandon; Hannah Martin, Elkhorn; Casey Bertholet, Hartney; Zoie Forgue, Neepawa.
Amber Pomeroy, Rivers; Nicole Russel, Brandon; Natasha Jones, Brandon; Shae Worthington, Brandon; Morgan Boryskiewich, Brandon; Emma Scott, Brandon; Seren Tucker, Shilo; Rebecca Ellis, Brandon; Jody-Rae Pottinger, Neepawa; Kristjan Frederickson, Brandon; Brooklyn Pratt, Brandon; Daphne Ellis, Brandon; Rhett Cruickshanks, Brandon; Lauryn Henriquez, Brandon; Richard Frederickson, Brandon; Adriana Quiring, Brandon.
Jossa Danis, Brandon; Ginelle Grenier, Baldur; Chelsea Dearsley, Baldur; Courtney Ganske, Killarney; Amie Hunt, Hartney; Ashton Bell, Deloraine; Mackenzie Roach, Virden; Kaitlyn Crowe, Deloraine; Amber Tilbury, Melita; Jenna Patterson, Boissevain; Kirsten Brown, Brandon; Kjierstan Wallace, Oak Lake; Melissa Hunt, Hartney; Jaycee Magwood, Killarney; Jalyn Elmes, Brandon; Brianna Williams, Souris; Lexie Kalynuk, Virden; Shaelyn Vallotton, Glenboro; Kristen Campbell, Brandon.
Rylan Rommelaere, Boissevain; Reginald Pohl, Douglas; Cole Kirkup, Souris; Kolby Chen, Deloraine, Cody Thompson, Killarney; Zachary Wytinck, Glenboro; Brian Harris, Wawanesa; Johnathon Patmore, Pipestone; Dexter Dalgleish, Alexander; Jay Webber, Brandon; McCullough Park, Deloraine; Connor Gutenberg, Brandon; River Sampson, Glenboro; Samuel Huston, Brandon; Riley Rutherford, Glenboro; Carson Gerring-Boyechko, Brandon; Tanner Gaudry; Brandon; Tyler Weatherbie, Shilo; Alex Cook, Brandon; Nicholas Donais, Carberry.
Jillian Mabon, Brandon; Shaelyn Gustafson, Brandon; Nicole Hutlet, Brandon; Ashley Derewianchuk, Brandon; Kathryn O’Rourke, Brandon; Daniele Dyck, Brandon; Hilary Derewianchuk, Brandon; Kaolin Sigurdson, Brandon; Megan Remillard, Brandon; Abby Wakewich, Brandon; Alexandra Smale, Brandon; Jessica Lohr, Brandon; Lauren Michta, Brandon; Kallie Pringle, Brandon; Sydney Houlihan, Brandon.