4 Wing athletes cherish memories of China competition

World Military Games China
Canadian Armed Forces athlete competed in World Military Games in China. Photo: Submitted

Cliff Kenyon

It’s something you’d never forget, a trip China and the chance to compete with the world’s best of the best.

The memories linger for competitors from 4 Wing Cold Lake who took part this fall in the Military World Games held in Wuhan, China.

They were there with thousands of military athletes from member nations of the International Military Sports Council (CISM) for the 7th Military World Games.

There were expected to be as many as 10,000 athletes from 100 countries competing in 27 sports. There were 127 from the Canadian Armed Forces and four from 4 Wing.

Among competitors was Captain (Capt) Zachary Zeiler, a 4 Wing Dental Officer and a swimmer. Medical technician Corporal (Cpl) Miranda Ollenberg was a member of the women’s basketball team. Master Warrant Officer (MWO) Paul Swansburg was golfing and Sergeant (Sgt) Giancarlo Pavone was officiating soccer.

“The level of competition, opening ceremony and venues truly felt worthy of the Olympic Games,” said Capt Zeiler after his return to Cold Lake.

“From start to finish it was clear that the event was going to be world class, and that no expense had been spared.”

As a member of the CISM Swimming and Lifesaving Team, Zeiler competed in three individual events and three relays. He placed 10th in the 100m Rescue Medley, 12th in the 50m Mannequin Carry, and 16th in the 100m Mannequin Carry with Fins. The CAF 4x50m Obstacle Relay made Finals and placed 7th overall, setting a new Canadian record that had not been broken since 2004.

Capt Zeiler said the level of competition was “extremely high.”

“Many of the athletes were professional and Olympic calibre, and are employed by their respective militaries in solely an athletic capacity. There were very few other countries we competed against that had traditional military trades as their primary means of employment. The level of competition was even high relative to other CISM events I’ve competed at because there were so many more countries and athletes in attendance.”

He said attending the games was a valuable experience for Canadian competitive swimmers.

“Since many of the members of our team have competitive swimming backgrounds, this was the first time for most of us competing at lifesaving sport on an international level—and the lessons and techniques we learned throughout the competition were extremely valuable. I look forward to developing these skills both in Canada and at future international events.”

Pavone said the trip was a valuable experience and applauded the organizers.

“It was very well organized with a group of international officials. All the soccer venues were incredible.”

He said there was another Canadian soccer official at the games plus a group of international officials.

And visitors were well treated.

“When travelling to China I was greeted by World Games staff in Beijing and Wuhan Airports to ensure all connections and baggage were looked after.”

“The host country went out of their way to ensure everything was of a high standard from hotels, transportation, translators, venues and food.”

He said it was an experience not to be forgotten.

“The opening ceremonies were absolutely incredible. They were on par if not better than the Olympic games opening ceremonies.”