Canada Summer Games Athlete Spotlight (part one of two)

National pride in sport and language

The Canada Games are a great national sporting event and a wonderful occasion for all in attendance to practise both of Canada’s official languages. Before the Summer Games began we had the opportunity to interview a few of the athletes participating to get an inside scoop on how their knowledge of both official languages has helped them throughout their sporting careers. This article will feature James Turner, a decathlon athlete from Kelowna, British Columbia, and Philippe Gagné, a diving athlete from Montréal, Quebec.

Mobility, speed and versatility

James Turner, a 21-year-old decathlon athlete from Kelowna, represented British Columbia at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke. James has been competing in track and field for seven years, and from the beginning his speed and versatility captured the attention of many coaches. He has and continues to compete nationally and internationally. He describes his biggest achievement to date as representing Canada in Barcelona, Spain at the World Junior Championships in 2012.

Proud of his ability to speak both official languages, he describes himself as a “well-rounded Canadian.” He believes that bilingualism in Canada is important and a part of being Canadian. He attributes a portion of his success to his early exposure to the two languages and attending French immersion middle and secondary schools. “I have been extremely lucky, I guess. I have a lot of friends who are bilingual.”

James described how his knowledge of Canada’s official languages helped him when competing in Barcelona at the Worlds in 2012, where some officials spoke only Spanish and a little French, with minimal to no English. He was able to breach the barriers of communication using a mixture of the three languages.

Through experiences like this and many others, James understands the value and benefits of knowing both of Canada’s official languages. “It makes it easier to communicate with people. I am able to meet more people and there are more opportunities open to me.”

James is proud to have represented British Columbia at the Canada Games in Sherbrooke, which was the last year he will be competing.

For information on James Turner’s final results at the Canada Summer Games and future competitions, visit

Diving into action

Philippe Gagné, a 15-year-old diving athlete from Montréal, Quebec, has been recognized as an athlete to watch since his competitive diving debut. He has and continues to compete nationally and internationally. In 2010, at the Junior National Championships, Philippe broke Olympic legend Alexandre Despatie’s platform record in the 12–13 age category, achieving a golden sweep in the 1-m, 3-m and 10-m diving events.

Philippe has been exposed to both official languages throughout his life. His earliest memory is that of his babysitter, who was English and spoke only English when watching him and his siblings, thus helping him to become fluent in the language. He enjoys the opportunity to explore other regions of Canada and the world and finds English an asset to him as it allows him to make friends easily and to work with unilingual coaches.

According to him, sporting competitions are an excellent opportunity to practise your second language, especially for athletes who do not have the chance to practise in their community. He believes that all Canadians and Quebecers should learn both English and French, because both languages are part of the Canadian identity.

This was Philippe’s first Canada Games and he was excited to meet people from across the country and practise his English.

For information on Philippe Gagné’s final results at the Canada Summer Games and future competitions, visit

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages in action at the Canada Summer Games

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages was well represented at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, with a kiosk located in the heart of the Athlete’s Village at Bishop’s University. What’s more, a mobile social media team travelled from site to site, giving away posters, beach balls and cooling scarves. The team also interviewed athletes, volunteers, staff and visitors about the Games, the value of being bilingual and Canada’s two official languages.

To find out where we were and all that we were doing, we encourage you to follow us on Twitter in English @OCOLCanada and in French @CLOduCanada, and to “like” our Facebook page.

For more information on Canada’s official languages or the Office of the Commissioner, visit

Published on Friday, September 06, 2013

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