CONNAUGHTON WINS GOLD MEDAL AT CANADA SUMMER GAMES

Jared Connaughton after winning a gold medal at the Canada Summer Games Monday.
 
Jared Connaughton after winning a gold medal at the Canada Summer Games Monday.
 

Aug. 18, 2005

REGINA, Canada - Jared Connaughton may have taken his act to the Lone Star State, but the star sprinter still loves the thrill of competing for his native Prince Edward Island.

The 20-year-old Connaughton got off to a fast start Monday, capturing gold in the men's 100-meter final to give P.E.I. its first medal of the Canada Summer Games. The native of New Haven crossed the finish line in 10.48 seconds - a new personal best, and over one-tenth of a second clear of runner-up Brian Barnett of Alberta.

Connaughton, who entered as a favorite, said he went into the final with plenty of confidence after posting the second-best time in the afternoon heats.

"I (usually) have reservations towards running fast and towards feeling a little injured, but not today," said Connaughton, who will enter his junior year at the University of Texas at Arlington next month. "I just told myself: 'You can win this."'

With ecstatic fans chanting "PEI! PEI!" in the background, Connaughton fought back tears as he described training on gravel tracks and soccer fields on the island province, which hadn't won gold in track since 1969.

"It's just really fulfilling," said Connaughton, who tugged at his jersey as he crossed the finish line. "I'm really proud to be from there, and I don't think I'd be here today if it wasn't for them. I feel that I represented them the best I could."

P.E.I. athletics coach Colin MacAdam was quick to share in Connaughton's excitement.

"I've coached Jared since he was young," said MacAdam, who is attending his sixth Canada Games. "It's very exciting and very gratifying. I'm just so pleased for him."

Connaughton, who was named P.E.I.'s senior male athlete of the year in 2004, battled a hamstring injury suffered early this season that has limited him to just a handful of outdoor races. He says he has completely recovered, and Monday's gold medal would suggest he's right.

While powerhouses Ontario and Quebec continue to battle for the overall medal lead, P.E.I. came into the second week of competition as one of only four provinces or territories without a trip to the podium. Yet, Connaughton said Team P.E.I. came to the Canada Games with plenty of pride.

"It doesn't matter how pretty your track is, it matters how big your heart is," said Connaughton. "That's exactly what I go into every race thinking. We may be small, but we have big hearts, and I don't think anybody can dispute that.

"It's awesome coming here and waving the P.E.I. flag."

Connaughton is a triple threat at these games - he'll be competing in the 200-metre event on Wednesday, and as part of his province's 4x100-metre relay team Friday. He said being one of the province's lone medal hopefuls didn't affect his approach to the 100-metre final, and won't impact him in his two remaining competitions.

"There's always pressure, but I don't think being from P.E.I. adds any," said Connaughton. "I think in a sense it takes some away, because we're brought up to keep things in focus and keep things in perspective."

"There's a little pressure, but my teammates and I just want to go out, have fun, and represent us well."

Connaughton also brings leadership to a relatively inexperienced team - something that gives him a great deal of pride.

"I was at the last Canada Games, 16 years old, and in over my head," said Connaughton. "I've been here and I've done this before, and I think (my teammates) focus in on that."

His coach agreed.

"He's more like an assistant coach," said MacAdam. "He really knows the sport, and he's happy to be working with the younger members."

As for future aspirations, Connaughton knows his limitations: he's a longshot to make the 2008 Canadian Olympic team, but he'd be thrilled to go to Beijing.

"I'd love to go to the Olympics," said Connaughton. "My Grade 12 yearbook said: 'See you from the Olympics.' Even if it's winter and I'm pushing a bobsled, I don't care."

(Story and photo courtesy of Canada.com).

 

 

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