Winnipeg speed skating champ named Manitoba flag-bearer for 2023 Canada Winter Games

A long track speed skater will lead Manitoba into the opening ceremony of the Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island this month.

Sofia Bieber, 17, has been named Manitoba’s official flag-bearer ahead of the 2023 competition, Sport Manitoba announced at an event on Tuesday morning where the team’s full roster and uniform were also unveiled.

The Winnipeg skater says she can’t wait to compete in the event, which runs from Feb. 18 to March 5.

“I’m just looking forward to the whole Canada Games experience. It’s a very different experience from our other competitions,” Bieber said in a recorded message sent from Germany, where she’s competing in the World Junior Speed Skating Championships.

“We’re representing Manitoba instead of just ourselves.”

Drew Todd, Team Manitoba’s chef de mission for this year’s competition, said on top of being a talented athlete who has qualified twice for Canada’s junior national team, Bieber is also an “amazing team player.”

“She’s always there to motivate and support those around her, while still remaining humble despite all her successes,” Todd said.

Bieber’s 16-year-old sister, Rebecca, is also competing as a speed skater in the games, Sport Manitoba said.

The sisters are among 207 athletes — ranging in age from 11 to 25 — headed to the competition, along with dozens of coaches and other staff members, Sport Manitoba said in a news release on Monday.

In addition to the qualifying athletes’ hard work, Todd says, the support they get from those around them is also a critical factor in being able to compete at such a high level.

“It’s not just the athletes that are sacrificing, but their coaches, their families, their friends. It really does take a village to get to this level of competition,” he said.

“We’re doing everything we can to put our athletes in positions to succeed. And we’re confident that they’re going to do their absolute best.”

Janet McMahon, president and chief executive officer of Sport Manitoba, said the work of the coaches is especially important. 

“You are instrumental in the success of your team, and we’re grateful for your dedication,” McMahon said.

The Canada Games is the largest amateur multi-sport event in the country, bringing together more than 2,000 athletes across more than 30 sports, Sport Manitoba says.

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