My dad won a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
I drove the 10 hours from Boston to Toronto on Wednesday without knowing what was in store. I spent Thursday exploring the city of Toronto, exploring the Hockey Hall of Fame, the CN Tower, and where I got my Team Canada gear to support my dad during his competition on Friday. Thursday was only the beginning.
I woke up early on Friday morning, decked myself out in Team Canada gear, got my breakfast Tim Hortons, and headed over to the range. The timing was perfect because as I walked into the range, my dad was walking down towards the spectator entrance. The qualifier for the men’s 50 meter pistol was going on, so I took a spot in the stands while pappa went to the athlete’s room to get in the zone. At 11:15am, all the shooters came out and began setting up for the 11:45 start. After the sightings, it was time for the real thing to start.
60 shots in 50 minutes. The best score possible on any single shot is a 10.9. In the field of 30 shooters, the top eight advance to the final.
I had promised to give shot by shot updates to my mom, and every 10 shots I let her know where pappa was in the rankings. After 45 minutes, it was time for pappa’s last shot; a few of the other shooters had already finished, some with scores around 616, and I knew that as long as pappa shot an average of over 10.2 over the last five shots, he’d be in the final. He didn’t disappoint, and ended the qualifier with a 10.8.
In between the qualifier and the final for the 50 meter prone, the men’s 50 meter pistol final was going to take place. After putting away his rifle, pappa went to the athletes tent to get us some food, and in the meanwhile I waited outside of the range.
Here’s where it gets fun: while I was waiting for pappa to come back, a few Venezuelan shooters asked for a picture; I thought they wanted me to take a picture of them, but it turns out I was going to be the focus of the camera. I did look really official in my Canada shirt, and was encouraged by my dad, who of course had come back exactly at this moment, to take the picture anyway. I posed, they thanked me, and I began chowing down the pasta and maple pie that was going to be my lunch.
We chatted with a few of the other Canadian shooters, met a whole bunch of new people, and then it was time to start prepping for the final. The eight shooters walked out, set up their rifles, took a few sighting shots, and then the announcer called the start of the final. The final is elimination style: all of the shooters shoot 3 initial shots, after which they shoot every shot on command. Every two shots, the person with the lowest score gets eliminated. Pappa was on a roll, and as shooters were getting eliminated, he kept floating around between second and third. With four shooters left, it became more crucial to hit the center of the target, and once the final shooter was eliminated, the podium was in sight.
After the last few shots were taken to determine gold and silver, the media frenzy began. The medal ceremony would start at 4pm, so I walked around checking out some of the sights and sounds during the 50 minutes wait. I grabbed a spot right up close for the pictures, and after the pistol shooters received their medals, they played the music and my father walked out with the rest of the medalists.
I’ll be honest, that was one of the coolest moments of my life to be able to see my dad walk onto the podium and receive his medal and Pachi the Porcupine. Pictures were taken of all of the medalists, and finally, after a few more media appearances, the athletes were released from their obligations and free to hang out with the regular people. Here is one of the articles written about my dad and his competition from 98.5FM, a French Canadian radio station. It is in French, but the point of the story is that the old man’s not done yet.
We had an initial celebration that night at Buffalo Wild Wings, splitting 20 boneless wings, and a poutine basket. We had bigger plans for Saturday, which would turn out to be absolutely awesome.
Since I was going to leave for NY on Saturday night, we both drove to Toronto and arrived around noon on Saturday, with the first stop being the Canada House at the Hilton. Since the shooting competition was being held outside of Toronto, all of the athletes lived in a lounge up north, so pappa hadn’t had the chance to see what Canada House looked like yet. We hung out in the lounge, grabbed a few drinks and snacks, and then walked over to Roger Field for the Blue Jays game. We got some cheap bleacher tickets and started looking for our entrance. The Pan Am torch was right outside of the CN Tower, which is located next to the baseball field, so I pointed that out to him as we walked around the stadium.
The game was like any regular baseball game; a few home runs were hit, hot dogs were eaten, and good times were had. After the game, we walked the few blocks to Nathan Phillips Square, where the center of the Panamania was. We checked out the official store, and then walked to Hudson’s Bay where we bought some official Team Canada gear before heading back to Team Canada House. After an hour or so of hanging out, it was time to head back to Nathan Phillips Square for the celebration of the medal winners. They brought my dad, a USA gymnast, and a Canadian archer out on stage where they were awarded medal winner pins before dancing with Pachi. Pappa was so game, keeping up with all of the moves that they had taught him 20 minutes before he got on stage. Everyone cheering and supporting him while he was onstage was pretty damn awesome. There was going to be a Canadian medal winners ceremony at Team Canada House at 8:30pm, so we walked back with the posse and enjoyed happy hour while it lasted. While we were waiting for the ceremony to start, there were a few younger athletes who were my age taking pictures around the lounge. We asked one of their moms what sport they played, and after we found out it was handball, their mom asked my what sport I competed in (this was the second time I was mistaken for an athlete this weekend). I immediately told her that my dad was the famous one, giving him all the credit he deserves.
Right at 8:45pm they started announcing the days medal winners: two female wrestlers who had won gold, the archer, a sailor who won bronze, and the entire men’s softball team who had just defended their Pan Am title from four years ago. It was really a celebration for the athletes and totally worth staying in Toronto until 10pm. Like I said earlier, it’s so cool to have people cheer on your dad for his accomplishments: he deserves all the praise.
I’m still amped from everything that happened, and I’ll have these memories for the rest of my life. Here’s to the next time my father and I adventure in Canada and make memories that will last a lifetime.