Commonwealth Games: Home of the Human Interest Story
Canada's Brianne Theisen-Eaton reacts while competing in the Women's Heptathlon High Jump at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland July 29, 2014. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)
The Commonwealth Games are a lot of things to a lot of people, pro and con, but to this typist they are The Home of the Human Interest Story.
Stuff happens at the Friendly Games that doesn't seem to happen at other Games. Like Queen Elizabeth photobombing a selfie picture the other day.
Tuesday was hump day at the 20th edition of the Games – Day 6 of 11 – and the Sun Media human interest story idea file was already overflowing.
First of all is the discovery that cyclist Zach Bell of North Vancouver, B.C., a two-time Olympian and 2010 bronze medal winner at the Commonwealth Games, and wrestler Brittanee Laverdure of Calgary are former high school classmates from Watson Lake, Yukon.
“Our graduating class was 12,” Laverdure informed me here Tuesday. “It was one of the bigger ones.”
Home of the famed sign post forest featuring over 72,000 mostly pilfered signs from outside cities and towns around the world, Watson Lake, located at mile 635 on the Alaska Highway has a population of about 900, including her mom, dad, two brothers and a sister.
She said Bell never pulled her pigtails in school.
“He was actually a really nice guy. If he'd had rat tails it likely would have been me doing the pulling.”
They didn't date.
“We were teammates,” Laverdure said. “We played badminton together. I played with the guys on the basketball team so we were teammates there, too. I ran into him the first day at the village. He's got a road race the same day I compete so we won't be able to watch each other.”
Actually, Bell figures he can make it if she goes fairly deep into the event.
“I was just heading out for a ride when I heard this shout the day she checked into the village,” he said. “I knew it was her. I knew she was coming.
“The fact both of us are here shows kids back in Canada that anyone can do it. We've shown that not just one kid can come out of a small town.”
Two of the better human interest stories are over at diving in Edinburgh.
In fact, the organizers deciding to use the diving facility from the 1970 and 1986 Games in Edinburgh created one of the stories.
Emma Friesen is the daughter of Ron Friesen who won a bronze in the three-metre at those first Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 1970.
“It's pretty exciting,” said Emma on the phone between practice sessions Tuesday.
“It's incredible to even be here in the first place, let alone knowing he was here a long time ago and won a medal. Mom and dad are on their way here so it's about to get very real for the both of us.”
Mom is the former Christine Loock, a member of the U.S. diving team herself, and Emma’s grandfather, were recently inducted to the Texas Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame. Mom and dad both competed at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
“I saw my dad's Commonwealth Games medal years ago when they put him in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame,” she said of the Moose Jaw product who married the Texan and somehow ended up in Victoria.
“My dad was the chairman of diving at the Victoria Commonwealth Games in 1994. I was four, almost five. Some of my first memories are from that event where I now train.”
Also diving in Edinburgh is Cody Yano of Edmonton, who holds his own claim to fame.
“I'm pretty sure I'm 'The World's Heaviest Diver,’” said the 6-foot-one 205-pound one- and three-metre springboard plunger.
“Most divers are around 150 pounds. So I look a little unusual out there. It makes me unique. A lot of people think I should be a rugby player, a hockey player or a weightlifter. Getting to the Commonwealth Games is a big step for me.”
And remember the 'Clad In Plaid' storyline of the Canadian team here in the opening ceremonies? There's a 'Rest Of The Story'.
The founder of RMP Athletic Locker, the company which produced Canada's plaid gear for these Games, it turns out, is a former Canadian Commonwealth Games athlete.
Mike Dyon ran the marathon in Brisbane in 1982. He presented the medals at the women's marathon here.
All pretty good Canadian human interest stories. But none which could compare with the one I found at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton.
Actually, I found it nine months later.
It was the story, complete with statistics, on how the birthrate in Edmonton soared beyond belief. The conception rate during the Commonwealth Games that year was staggering.
Do you care about the Commonwealth Games?