A Westboro athlete is getting ready for what might be the adventure of a lifetime.
On August 11, Westboro’s 17-year-old Liam Manning travelled to Nanjing, China to compete in the second annual Youth Olympics as the goalie of Canada’s national field hockey team. The games begin August 17.
“In Canada, field hockey doesn’t see a whole lot of attention,” says Manning. “But internationally it’s something like the third most played sport in the world.”
Manning says he started playing hockey, the icy variety, when he was three or four. For much of this time he played goalie. In 2007, Manning started playing field hockey casually with a few friends. Over time he grew to love field hockey and devoted himself to the sport.
“I love working hard, training that kind of stuff. Field hockey gave me more of that kind of drive, and I grew to like playing it much more than ice hockey,” says Manning. “It was also a great opportunity to start travelling.”
Although heading overseas might seem a touch intimidating, Manning has plenty of experience travelling for sport.
In 2012, he went to L.A. with the national team for a three game series against the United States. Then on February 4, 2014 he went to the Pan Am Youth Championships in Puerto Rico as part of the qualifiers for the Youth Olympic Games. Manning and the national team made it to the final, but lost to Argentina 5-2.
Manning is currently in Vancouver training with “the under 18, the youth squad that’s going to China, and the under 21 team.”
“I’m used to being away from home for long periods of time,” he says.
If anything, Manning and his parents suspect that this trip will be a lot smoother than some of his past flights.
“The first time Liam went to L.A. there was a mix-up with the tickets,” says Brendon Manning, Liam’s father. “He handled that, and I have no doubt he’ll handle this just fine.”
The fact that the organizers are helping set up accommodations and travel is also a relief to both of his parents, according to Mr. Manning.
The athletes will be staying in the Youth Olympic Village from the opening ceremonies to the closing ceremonies. Nanjing will host 3,808 athletes from 204 nations or regions playing 28 different sports, according to the Youth Olympic Games website. All participants are between the ages of 15 and 18.
The field Manning will play on in Nanjing will be roughly half the size of a soccer pitch, and teams will put forward 5 players instead of the traditional 11. Boards, like those found in ice hockey, will also be present. The Canadian national team is one of the only teams practicing with boards, according to Manning.
As the days to departure continue to be marked off, Manning is confident that the Canadian national team has a real, fighting chance.
“I think the teams to watch are probably Germany, Australia, South Africa, and Pakistan,” says Manning. “They’re highly competitive, but then again – so are we.”