Comsia chasing soccer dreams at Pan Am Games

Young defender one of 19 North Shore athletes competing at Toronto-hosted event

North Vancouver’s Alex Comsia has a very specific dream as a soccer player of suiting up for Team Canada in a home game against the most iconic soccer country in the world: Brazil.

“That’s been a dream of mine for a very long time,” Comsia told the North Shore News Thursday. “I think if you ask any young kid they’ll tell you the same thing. That would be amazing for me to get an opportunity to play against them.”

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Amazingly, there’s a chance that Comsia’s dream could come true today. The 18-year-old is the second youngest member of Canada’s U23 men’s soccer team competing in the Pan Am Games, and guess who the Canadians are facing in their opening game today at the brand new CIBC Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium. Here’s a hint: it’s a team that loves to score and samba.

More than 20,000 fans are expected to fill the stands for Canada’s match against the famous canary yellow-clad Brazilians. As one of Canada’s youngest players Comsia may be a bit of an underdog to make the starting lineup, but he’s already got a stellar international resumé that includes a bronze medal at the 2013 U17 CONCACAF qualifiers, a starting role at the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup in Dubai, and several appearances with Canada’s U20 team. He was also a finalist for the 2014 Canadian U20 Player of the Year Award.

On top of the competition in the Pan Am tournament, Comsia said he’s also reveling in all the other perks of taking part in a multi-sport event.

“We got a whole luggage set full of clothing — we got new sneakers, flip flops, hats, T-Shirts, anything you could think of,” he said with a laugh. “It looks great too. We’re proud to wear all of it. I will wear this when I get back home for sure.”

Soccer is taking place in Hamilton but the Pan Am Games are headquartered in Toronto where Comsia and the rest of Team Canada were expected to gather for the Opening Ceremonies Friday.

“That’ll be a great honour, to stand side-by-side with all the other athletes,” he said, adding that it didn’t take long to realize how much the competition meant to all the international athletes he’s already met. “It feels like an Olympic type atmosphere, honestly. . . . I didn’t know how big this event was — now I do.”

Comsia also joked that he’s never actually been to Toronto except for several stops at the airport, so these Games are helping him experience his own country in a new way. He’s hoping his team gets to take in other sports while also squeezing in a trip to Niagara Falls, although all those perks come a distant second behind the team’s main task, he said.

“We’re not here for a vacation, we’re here to represent the country and do well.”

The Pan Am men’s soccer final is scheduled for July 26, the last day of the Games, in Hamilton.

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The North Shore will be well represented at the Pan Am Games with 18 more athletes with local ties joining Comsia to compete for Canada July 10-27 in Toronto.

The wave is led by a half dozen field hockey players — all products of the West Vancouver Field Hockey Club — who will be fighting for the finals scheduled for July 24 for women and July 25 for men at Pan Am Fields at the University of Toronto. Hannah Haughn, Karli Johansen, Stephanie Norlander, Holly Stewart and Alex Thicke will suit up for the women’s national team while Taylor Curran will take the field for the men’s team.

Gymnastics star Scott Morgan will be one of the North Shore’s top podium threats coming off a four-medal performance at last year’s Commonwealth Games.

In the pool Emily Overholt will be looking to build on her success at the Commonwealth Games where she won relay silver as a 16-year-old. She’ll be joined on the swim team by James Dergousoff, the current national champion in the 200-m breaststroke.

Several 2012 Olympians will put on their Maple Leaf gear again in Toronto, including middle-distance runner Jessica Smith, sailors Zac Plavsic and Nicola Girke, and equestrian Tiffany Foster.

Other North Shore star athletes will be making their Big Games debuts. Tennis pro Philip Bester will hit the hardcourt at the Canadian Tennis Centre on the York University campus. Rugby standout Harry Jones will suit up for Canada’s men’s sevens team looking for Pan Am gold one year before the sport debuts at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Also competing will be softball star Derek Mayson, who will be looking to go double gold this summer — the national team just claimed top spot at the ISF World Championships held last week in Saskatoon.

North Vancouver-born rower Kai Langerfeld and Fred Winters, a Carson Graham grad who is the captain of Canada’s national volleyball team, will also be going for gold in Toronto.

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