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Connecting the Swan River Valley to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics


There’s no denying that one of the most popular sports for Canadians to watch – dominating the winter Olympics every four years – is hockey.
At this year’s 2018 Olympic games in Pyeonchang, South Korea, local fans got to do a little extra cheering when the men’s Olympic hockey team featured a player with plenty of ties to the Swan River Valley.
Chay Genoway’s father Bob was born and raised in the Valley, having plenty of family still in the area and visits every chance he gets. His mother, Kathy Fisher, is originally from Dauphin but has lived in Swan River for many years.
The 31-year-old defenceman was an integral part of helping Team Canada come home with the bronze medal, an experience he’ll never forget.
“The entire Olympic experience was breathtaking,” said Genoway. “From the opening ceremonies, to the cafeteria with all the athletes, it was better than I could of dreamed. It was a lot of fun to observe the best athletes in the world from what they eat to how they prepare.
“It was so much fun to spend a lot of time with my teammates in the village and become a close knit group. The athlete lounge was a fun way to watch other events while learning about the different sports that each athlete has mastered.
“It was even better to be able to go to other events to support the other Canadian athletes,” he continued. “Being a part of a bigger team is what the Olympics is all about. And, to be a part of the (group that earned) the most medals for Canada in any one Olympics is something we all can hold on to forever.”
Team Canada ended their pool with a 4-0 win over the host South Korean’s, a 5-1 win over Switzerland and a 3-2 shootout loss to the Czech Republic.
From there they defeated Finland in a tight 1-0 game to advance to the semi-finals.
With a chance to play for the gold medal on the line with a win over the underdog German’s, it wasn’t meant to be. Germany would score timely goals and hold the Canadians at bay long enough to escape with a 4-3 win.
Playing for the bronze medal was not what they wanted but the Canadians managed to rebound from the agony of defeat less than 24 hours prior and go on to win the bronze medal with a 6-4 win over the Czech’s, still a huge accomplishment for the country.
“Watching Chay at the Olympics was an intense emotional roller coaster,” said Fisher of the experience. “My heart was so full when I saw him step onto the ice wearing the Canadian jersey the first time.
“There was ecstasy in the winning and there was despair in the losing. But, in the end, watching his face as they put that medal around his neck ... WOW!”
Going through the struggles and the victories while seeing the relationships with his teammates grow by the day was the most memorable for Genoway.
“I felt like our team came together very fast,” he said. “That was the most important thing in a short tournament like this. We got to spend a lot of time together and got to know each other on and off the ice.
“A lot of guys had to play very different roles than they were used to on their club team. Personally, I felt like I had an overall good tournament. I tried to get the most out of the minutes I played throughout and I was more and more comfortable as it went on.”
With the quick turnaround between the semi-final loss and being forced to play for the bronze medal, Genoway described his emotions as what anyone who watched the games suspected.
“A roller coaster of emotions is definitely the best way to sum up the last four days of the tournament for us,” he said. “We were very excited and happy with our quarter final win over Finland. And then, two days later, we were at the lowest of lows after losing to the German’s in the semi-finals.
“It felt like we were so close but had blown the opportunity of a lifetime to win a gold medal. It was difficult waking up the next morning knowing we were playing for a bronze medal.”
However, thanks to an uplifting meeting between the players, coaches and staff, they all came to realize that losing in the bronze medal game was not an option they wanted to even discuss.
“It took a lot of conversation amongst the players and coaches and management to get over the past and look forward to an opportunity to win an Olympic medal,” said Genoway.
“This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. This was my most proud moment of the Olympics, personally and for the team. We were able to turn our emotions around and get really excited for the bronze medal game and it showed in our performance.
“After that game, we were all so elated because we left it all out there,” he continued. “It is easy to say that the bronze medal was one hell of an accomplishment for all of us.”
For anyone who watched the game in person or on television, as the medals were about to be handed out Genoway was third in line to receive. The look of excitement on his face was clearly evident.
“The moment I received that medal, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the people from my family that were in stands and all the people back in Canada that were glued to the TV supporting us,” he said. “These people have been supportive of me my entire life.
“We had just won a bronze medal in the Olympic games!”
Like many Olympic athletes, having his own cheering squad on hand to share in the experience made all the difference for Genoway.
“I had a crew of 10 who made the trip to Korea,” he said. “I had my mom and step dad Brian (Minish), my dad, an aunt and uncle, my fiancé and her mom, a cousin and his friend, and another cousin.
“Having them there to support me and share in the roller coaster was definitely the highlight of the entire experience. Family is everything even when you are talking about getting to take part in the Olympic Games.”
As for all his friends, family and followers from the Valley, Genoway couldn’t emphasize enough how much he appreciated their support from afar.
“To everyone from the area who was watching, I’d love to say thank you for the support,” he said. “I hope I get the chance to thank you in person this summer. I could feel all the love and support from the other side of the earth.
“Being from Manitoba is something we are all proud of and this experience was another great example of the close knit community we share.”

Jakki Lumax