CANUSA Games between Flint and Hamilton, Ontario, athletes going virtual this August

FLINT, Michigan -- After last year’s Greater Flint Olympian and CANUSA Games were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes were excited about a return of the competition this year -- even if things still aren’t exactly the same as in previous competitions. 

This year, the 64th Annual Greater Flint Olympian Games were held in Flint and Genesee County June 21-July  23.
 
Since 1958, Flint and Hamilton, Ontario, have alternated hosting the CANUSA Games. This summer, Hamilton will host Flint, Michigan for the 63rd annual CANUSA Games, but due to border restrictions, the games will be virtual and take place August 6-8. They can be viewed live on the Crim Fitness Foundation’s Facebook page.
 
“It’s going to be interesting with all of the videos and putting them together from both sides,” said Sean Croudy, an associate chairperson for the 2021 Greater Flint Olympian & CANUSA Games Leadership. 

The cities take turns accommodating student athletes with host families to promote the spirit of their motto, “Experience the Friendship.” After competition on the field or court, all athletes get the chance to exchange cultural knowledge and build relationships.
 
In 1957, the Greater Flint Olympian came into existence with an effort to promote organized sports programming. More than 700,000 athletes from ages 5-85 have participated in the Greater Flint Olympian and CANUSA Games.

“It’s like one big family,” Croudy said. “The whole event is about the experience of friendship and establishing relationships through both cities and countries.”
Basketball players have been practicing at Flint Southwestern to get ready for the CANUSA Games.For every individual involved in CANUSA, this year is a major comeback for every area of the program and there has been a process to reset everything for summer 2021.

“Reconnecting without our chairpersons, making sure everybody is back to work, remembering all the procedures that go on, putting the games on, and reconnecting with athletes who play in the games the past summers (were part of bringing the games back),” said Croudy, who has been a leader for the games for 16 years. “We are finding that people are happy to be back and happy to be back to some type of normalcy.” 
 
Eased pandemic restrictions have allowed the Greater Flint Olympian Games to still be a successful program for the young athletes. It was harder for the leadership committee on both sides to make CANUSA a physical event this year because of the more strict pandemic rules in Canada.
 
Historically, there have been more than 26 sports for athletes to participate in that have been listed on their CANUSA Digest: basketball, baseball, swimming, tennis, archery, skeet, hockey, track, soccer, bowling, darts, pickleball, volleyball, and weightlifting are just some of the sports that have been offered.
 
This year, sporting events will be limited to being fully virtual and partially competitive. The events which will be scored during competition are bowling, darts, skeet, swimming, and track & field. The skill and drill sports which will highlight athlete’s performances are basketball, gymnastics, and ice hockey. 
 
Track & field is among the sports athletes in this year's CANUSA Games will participate in (Photo: Makai Conner).Although Flint has historically won against Hamilton in the CANUSA Games, winning has never been the intent for the city.

“Winning is not the goal,” said Croudy. “It’s all about the experience of friendships and sports, for both countries to unite and kids to learn each other’s culture and to see the similarities and differences. For this year, it’s important we are getting kids back active, into some type of physical activity and continuing this rich tradition in Flint.”
 
The CANUSA Games are the last International Junior Olympic competition in North America. As a nonprofit organization, corporate and community sponsors are able to keep the program running. Corporate sponsors include: GISD, HAP, and the Community Foundation of Greater. Community sponsors include Kettering University, Sovita Credit Union, Dort Federal Credit Unions, Kiwanis International, Flint Firebirds, and Optimist Club of Flint-West.
 
For many young kids in the community, Croudy believes the overall experience of CANUSA is their chance to encounter an experience outside of what they already know or where they’ve already been.

“This is a lifetime opportunity they might never get (otherwise),” he  said.
 
Although Flint athletes won't physically be able to travel to Hamilton this year, social media and technology will help promote the connection between the young athletes. 
 
“We are excited that things are pretty much back in order, but we are definitely excited for 2022,” said Croudy with optimism for the future. “We will most likely have CANUSA as long as COVID doesn’t rear its ugly head (next year).”

Read more articles by Miriam Bingham.