Canadian trap shooter Susan Nattrass has criss-crossed the globe over her long career, competing at several world championships, six different Summer Olympics and now the 2011 Pan Am Games.
While she has done it all over her four-plus decades in the sport, being on hand for Thursday’s flag-raising ceremony at the athletes’ village still brought a tear to her eye.
“It’s very exciting and really emotional. Pride, tears,” she said before getting too choked up to continue.
Nattrass was joined by dozens of Canadian athletes and several team officials for the half-hour ceremony on the eve of the Games.
“It really doesn’t get old,” she added.
The event was originally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon but had to be postponed due to the wet weather that has lashed the region this week. Dark clouds hovered along the peaks of the picturesque, tree-lined mountains that surround the village.
It was damp but the rain held off during the ceremony, which included a traditional ballet performance by two local dancers.
The Canadian athletes — many decked out in red and white Canada shirts with black rainpants — were all smiles as O Canada was played while the Maple Leaf was raised alongside the flags of the other participating countries.
“I think you can sense the excitement in the air and it’s not just the thunderstorms looming in the background,” said assistant chef de mission Curt Harnett. “This is really a great opportunity to collectively gather the team together and feel the energy.”
The Canadians gathered around the flagpole area for about a half-hour before the ceremony and many took the opportunity to ham it up with others in attendance. Volleyball player Liz Cordonier donned a sombrero for pictures while others chatted with local officials and athletes from other countries.
The village was a bustling hub with athletes milling about at the nearby food court and shopping area. A steady hum could be heard outside the venue as workers on gravel loaders scrambled to fill the dozens of potholes that littered the parking lot.
It was all drowned out once the sound of O Canada filled the air.
“Just having the Canadian flag rise up with our anthem in the background, it was touching,” said Canadian soccer player Karina LeBlanc. “It was emotional.”
Nattrass was beaming throughout the event.
“I think it’s a very positive feeling, very hopeful and energetic,” Nattrass said. “It’s lovely. Just lovely.”
Women’s soccer captain Christine Sinclair will serve as the flag-bearer at Friday’s opening ceremonies.
Canada traditionally finishes in the top three at the Games, which have been held every four years since they debuted in 1951 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Canadians were third in total medals four years ago in Brazil with 138, trailing the first-place U.S. and the host country.
Some 6,000 athletes from 42 countries will compete in 39 sports at the Games, which will continue through Oct. 30. Toronto will host the 2015 Pan Am Games.