Conestoga news

July 24, 2015 2:50 PM

Students, staff and grads build excitement at the Pan Am Games

The largest multi-sport Games ever held in Canada are underway in venues across southern Ontario and Conestoga students, staff and grads are all part of the action.

Over 100 Conestoga College alumni, students, staff and faculty are taking part in the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, participating as organizers, researchers, security, and competitors.

Over 6,000 athletes from 41 nations descended on Toronto earlier this month to take part in the 2015 Pan Am Games, which involve more than 350 events in 36 sports. Canada set a new national Pan Am gold medal count on July 23 (the previous gold medal record, set in 1999, was 64) and all eyes will be on Kitchener’s Mandy Bujold tomorrow as she tries to add one more gold to the count.

Bujold, a 2007 Conestoga Business grad, is competing in the women’s flyweight (48-51 kg) boxing match. She defeated Peru’s Lucy Brave 3-0 in the quarter-finals on July 20 and moved on to win against Colombia’s Victoria Valencia in the semi-finals on July 21. Bujold takes on Marlen Esparza of the US in the finals at the Oshawa Sports Centre on July 25.

Bujold previously won gold for Canada in the 2011 Pan Am Games and hopes to represent Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Bujold also served as one of 3,000 torchbearers for the Games and carried the flame into Kitchener’s Carl Zehr square where she lit the community cauldron on June 18.

While Bujold goes for gold, other Conestoga students are busy behind the scenes at the Games. Students from the Police Foundations and Security Management programs have a significant presence. Recruitment for Games security started in October 2014 and Contemporary Security Canada (CSC) says the response was positive. “We were thrilled to see such enthusiasm from the student applicants at Conestoga College. We have 107 Conestoga students working as guards at the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games,” said Michelle Dias, marketing manager at CSC. “For these students, working at the Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Our guards will leave the Games with marketable skills and valuable work experience and, to us, that experience is an important part of the Games legacy in Ontario.”

A major responsibility of the guards is welcoming athletes and spectators to each of the Games venues. While greeting and scanning guests, students develop their communication skills and gain invaluable security experience. Students also learn how to use Games-specific technical equipment like accreditation scanners and gain confidence by working in the field.

Media and Broadcasting students and staff are also actively involved with the Games. Part-time journalism instructor Dave Chidley is lending his expertise as one of 11 venue photo managers. In this role Chidley handles accredited photographers for five different sports: volleyball, handball, squash, racquet ball and roller figure skating. Chidley works to ensure the 30 to 40 photographers at each event are able to get the best shots - which can be difficult at some venues where courtside accessibility is limited.

Despite the long hours and intense scheduling of the Games, Chidley says the experience has been really interesting. He’s met and made friends with photographers from all over the world (there are 520 accredited photographers attending) and lends credit to the 23,000 volunteers at the Games who have given up their time. “Part of what makes this experience so fun is working with huge numbers of volunteers. Showing them what I need help with is much like teaching.”

Conestoga Broadcasting students and grads have also taken on a variety of roles at the Games after beating out hundreds of other applicants vying for the positions. Broadcasting grad Felipe Gonzalia says he feels right at home working as a booking and information office assistant - a role that has provided a perfect opportunity to blend a love of sports with broadcast experience and fluency in English and Spanish. “I've loved the opportunity to work out of the International Broadcast Centre and learn first-hand the ins and outs of what it takes to deliver the pictures and sounds of the 2015 Pan Am games,” said Gonzalia. “One of my favourite highlights was the opportunity to meet Argentina's beach volleyball gold medal winners. I even had the chance to hold a Pan Am gold medal! Overall, the contacts I've made with both international and national broadcasters is what I value the most. It's been a great opportunity to learn the logistical side of the games and I hope to use that knowledge and experience in future roles - ideally in the upcoming Olympics.”

Broadcasting grad Jordan von Holstein-Rathlou was hired to work as a researcher and has also benefited from working alongside industry vets. “I’ve been able to work with seasoned sport writers that were grateful for my help and willing to teach me more about writing and voicing,” said von Holstein-Rathlou. In addition to working as a researcher, von Holstein-Rathlou spent time in the CBC building and out in the field as a shot lister, which required making detailed notes related to scoring, athletes and reaction on the playing field. Most memorable was von Holstein-Rathlou’s chance to be a “voicer” which involved writing a brief script and working with associate directors to voice and record it.

Broadcasting grad Jessie D’Uva had similar sentiments. “The Pan Am Games provided me with a once in a lifetime experience,” said D’Uva.  “I worked as a television assistant for the live broadcasts of beach volleyball. I was able to network and work alongside industry vets who gave me advice on how to pursue my future career goals. Moving forward I have a better idea of how the industry works and what I need to do to succeed as a live broadcaster.”

Closing ceremonies for the Games take place on Sunday, July 26. The Parapan Am Games run August 7 through 15. More information is available on the Games website.