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Aug 9 2019 - NB Track and Field History Part 3

Hello again, and welcome to the third chapter of our look back at the history of New Brunswick athlete participation in International Track and Field competition. We hope you enjoyed our look last month at the Commonwealth Games. Today, we are reviewing the Pan American Games, as seen through the participation of six of our best NB athletes ever!

The Pan American Games are overseen by the governing body known as PASO (Pan American Sports Organization). The “Games for the Americas” idea was first raised at the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, by Latin American representatives of the International Olympic Committee. An initial Pan Am Games was scheduled for Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1942, but with the ongoing World War 2, it was postponed.  After official confirmation and planning at the 1948 London Olympic Games, the first ever Pan American Games were held in Buenos Aires from Feb. 25 – March 9, 1951. There were 21 nations, and just over 2500 athletes competing in 21 sports. The first edition of these Games in 1951 was the only one in which Canada did NOT participate. The Games moved to Mexico City in 1955, and then to Chicago in 1959. The USA has dominated every competition except 1951 and 1991 (Cuba). In Toronto, the 2015 Games involved 41 countries and over 6,000 athletes, the largest ever.

The 1963 Pan Am Games were held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from April 20 to May 5th, and this marked the second time that New Brunswick placed TWO athletes on a major international Canadian team (1924 Olympics, Maynes & Miller). Seventeen year old Sandra Barr, a St. Stephen native and well known basketball and track star, became one of our youngest ever international athletes, when she placed 5th in Brazil with a high jump of 1.53m (5 ft, ¼ inch in those days). Barr, an outstanding basketball player at St. Stephen High and UNB, had a lifetime PB of 1.63m, and was a previous Canadian age class record holder, as well as a two time medallist at National Seniors.  Joining her on the ’63 Sao Paulo team was 24 year old Fredericton native javelin thrower Pat Dobie, who placed 4th with a toss of 35.22m, almost capturing the bronze! Dobie’s performance here came just five months after recording a 5th and 7th in the javelin and disc at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia.

In 1967, Winnipeg, Manitoba hosted the 5th edition of the Pan Am Games, and 23 year old Bill Greenough of Milltown (St. Stephen), our greatest ever horizontal jumper, proudly wore the Maple Leaf in both long jump and triple jump. He finished 6th in triple jump with 15.43m, and 7th in long jump, at 7.12m. Greenough also competed at FISU or World University Games in Tokyo this same season, finishing 8th in triple and 9th in long jump. In addition, he captured a silver medal in long jump in the very first Canada Summer Games in 1969, while representing British Columbia. He still holds both of our provincial Senior records in Long Jump and Triple Jump.

Our next participant at the Pan Am Games was in Havana, Cuba, in August, 1991, when 21 year old Willy Best of Fredericton finished 4th in his heat of the 800m in a time of 1:49.19. Best, with a lifetime PB of 1:46.52 (still our provincial record), also competed in the 800m and ran a leg of Canada’s 4 x 400 relay at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, BC, and captured  1 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze medals in the 800m at National Srs from 1990-2000. In addition to his 800m PB, Willy also has a 48.45 400m PB (6th all-time NB), and a 1500m best of 3:44.91 (3rd all-time NB).

Our most decorated international athlete made his first of three appearances at the 1995 Pan Am Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1995 at the age of 24. Joel Bourgeois of Grande-Digue, was a 3000m Steeplechase specialist with a remarkable legacy of three Commonwealth Games, 3 Pan Am Games, and two entries at each of the World Championships and Olympic Games. In the 1995 Games, Joel placed 6th in 8:45.62; at the ’99 Games on host soil in Winnipeg, he made us all proud by capturing GOLD in 8:35.03; finally, his last appearance at 32 was in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 2003, where he captured silver in 8:36.78. He is, thus far, our ONLY athlete in NB history to capture a gold medal at one of the four major track and field competitions (Olympics, Worlds, Pan Ams, Commonwealth Games). He has PB’s of 8:20.08 (1999, Spain) in the 3k Steeple, as well as 3:45.54 1500m (Spain, 1999) (4th all-time NB), 8:11.75 3000m (also Spain, 1999) (2nd all-time NB), and 13:57.65 for 5000m (2001) (2nd all-time NB).  Quite a career!!

The 2015 Pan American Games were held in Toronto, and our own Gen Lalonde competed for Canada in the ladies 3000m Steeplechase, where she ran a solid 9:53.03 to capture the BRONZE medal. Genevieve has a strong career legacy of competing in the 2016 Olympics, 2015 and 2017 World Outdoors, the 2015 Pan Ams, the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the 2010 World Juniors, the 2007 World Youth, as well as the World Indoors in 2018. As of this writing, she is preparing for the 2019 Canadian Senior Championships and a berth on the 2019 Canadian team for the 2019 Pan Ams and World Championships. Her notable PB in the 3k Steeple is a Canadian record 9:29.82, set this year at the Shanghai IAAF Grand prix meet.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  We should mention that two of our athletes qualified for the Pan American Games but were unable to compete due to injuries. John Corazza, an Olympic  javelin thrower from Moncton, sat out the 1979 Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while sprinter Mike LeBlanc of Riverview, could not compete in the 2007 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Thanks for listening; we’ll be back in a few weeks with our look at World Championship participation. Best of luck to all our athletes at National Jrs and Srs, as well as our Legion provincial team in Cape Breton!

- Rod Mackenzie

2019-08-13 - 5 Medals for Team NB at Legion Canadian Youth Championships
2019-08-13 - Lalonde Wins Gold at Pan Am Games
2019-08-09 - NB Track and Field History Part 3
2019-08-08 - 2019 Legion Nationals Set to Begin August 9
2019-08-08 - Lalonde to Represent Canada in Lima, Peru at the Pan Am Games

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