CANMORE – Big and heavy stuff was picked up like feathers and tossed around like nothing this past weekend in Canmore.
That, of course, can only mean one thing when the bagpipers and plaid kilts start showing up in town.
A large crowd was buzzed by the always entertaining feats of strength at the heavy sports event at the Canmore Highland Games on Sunday (Sept. 3), when a competitive group of pros and amateurs got busy at Centennial Park.
“We had two world champions [competing] this year, which was amazing to see. I've never seen that before,” said heavy games MC, Red Dawg.
It was the best field of athletes that Red Dawg, who was on the Calgary radio station CJAY 92, had seen in the past 15 years of hosting the heavy sports event.
“The pros have always wanted to come there and the other big thing they said is it's unlike any other Highland games in the world,” he said. “So there are a lot of first timers, including a bunch of really top pros from the United States.”
USA’s Chuck Kasson, the 2018 heavy games world champ, and Damien Fisher, currently ranked No. 2 in the world in heavy games competition were giving onlookers something to cheer about all day.
With the big boys in town, the largest caber in Canmore’s heavy games history, a beast of a log at 20 feet long and 115 pounds, was swung around in the pro category. However, one of the biggest crowd reactions of the day came when Kasson, in his final outing of the competition during the sheaf toss, muscled a 20-pound bag up and over a 32.6 foot bar with a pitch fork.
Fisher took top prize in the pro category and Kasson was second. Alex McCara of Victoria, B.C. was third.
The line-up of contests also included the light and heavy hammer throws, putting the stone, and hurling a weight over the bar.
Winning the men’s open category was Dylan Cameron of Calgary. In second and third place were Owen Ferguson of Calgary and Donovan Lewis of Pincher Creek, respectively.
With the absence of Canmore heavies staple and gold medal hunter, Jamie Clark, who was away competing at the World Heavy Events Championships this year, the women’s field was wide open for the taking.
A day prior at the Calgary Highland Games, Calgary’s Alexis Johnson set a Canadian record in the women’s light hammer throw (12 pounds), throwing it 103 feet and nine inches. Competing in Highland competition for just one year, Johnson is only the second Canadian woman to throw a light hammer more than 100 feet. The other being Susie Lajoie, the previous record holder (103 feet and 2.5 inches), who, in 2018, won the women’s heavy games at the Canmore Highland Games.
“I was honestly really surprised,” said Johnson of breaking the record. “I didn’t think it would happen, but I’m very happy that it did and I'm curious to see what I can do in the future. It was an awesome experience.”
Red Dawg praised the newcomer to the sport and said there is a promising future for the 23-year-old.
“We think that if Alexis wanted to be, some of the pros said she could be a world champion,” he said.
Calgary’s Siri Svensson, who was the only one to throw a perfect 12 o’clock caber on the strong women’s side, took first place in Canmore. Johnson was second. Taking third place was Alisha Thompson of Calgary.
As the future looks bright for younger athletes in the sport, the sun has set on the career of another.
After 15 years of competing, Calgary’s Rob Young retired at the local games, kicking off his boots, and sharing hugs with the other competitors.
“I wrestled back in university and that’s a thing wrestlers would do, a lot just leave your shoes on the field or on the mat when you’re done so that’s just what I did,” said Young.
Winning first place in the masters category, the three-time Canadian caber champion said being out on the field with friends and competitors is what he'll miss most.
In second place in the masters was Calgary's Justin Wishart and third was Kyle MacDonald of Grande Prairie.