Growing up gold: Local parents reflect on what it takes to raise an Olympian

As we prepare for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the focus, as it should be, is on our Canadian athletes. Who they are. What they will do and the small towns, cities, and provinces they will be representing as they represent Team Canada.

I love these stories. I love to hear how every athlete made it to the top spot in their sport – a chance to represent their country at the ultimate competition.

And yet, another side of the story are those who are cheering for them in the stands. Those who came with them to support them, smile at them and wave.

This year, as we know, will be quite different. The stands will be empty. But the cheering, again, as we all know, still goes on.

Only I can imagine it will be from those childhood homes, patios or other small gatherings. Whether it will stream on tablets, computers or televisions –  proud parents will still be cheering on the outstanding accomplishments of their sons and daughters.

And in Ottawa-Gatineau, there are 28 athletes headed to the Olympics, along with the many proud parents and family members.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to hear just how proud one set Pamphile Lelo Buisa and Jeannette Malonda were of their daughter, rugby star, local activist and all-around athlete Pamphinette (Pam) Buisa.

\”Pam had a great childhood; she was full of energy,\” Pam’s father Mr. Buisa said. \”She had all the support that she needed to fulfil her potential in every aspect.\”

When the family immigrated to Canada, they first moved to Vanier – a place Mr. Buisa said remains their community and considered their home neighbourhood, despite moving to Gatineau years later. 

The proud father added he knew she was not only talented but had a calling to do well in sport – and had no concerns about his daughter playing in one of the roughest sports out there.

Pam’s interest in rugby had her playing for the Ottawa Irish where she quickly shone as a star player. 

\”Amazingly, even though Rugby is one of the most dangerous sport, I wasn’t so much concerned about Pam because she was very athletic, and her height, her strength and physicality were a great asset for her,\” he said. \”Instead, earlier on, the other players were afraid and scared to measure with her.\”

As her father, he said he always knew, without a doubt, Pam would go far in the sport. As he watched her progress and got accepted into the Canadian development team program in 2014, he said he had no doubt she would make it to the Olympics.

And His pride goes deeper than just watching her on the pitch. He highlighted the accomplishments as great wins for his daughter, including confidence and strength to be a leader in her community.

\”Pam is very discipline and a very respectful child. She’s a very reliable individual and a bold personality. She has natural leadership for whatever she does whether in sport, work or school,\” he said. \”Pam’s effective, self-confidence and social ability to inspire and encourage others, radiating both passion and love for whatever she’s involved in…. She’s a very reliable kid, assertive, and likes being in charge, I mean in power. She’s not afraid to voice her opinion on what is just and fair.\”

When Pam made Team Canada, naturally, Mr. Buisa said, the family was beyond excited, and the news that the Olympics were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic was tough to handle.

\”It was the most difficult moment for her and us as a family. She worked so hard and sacrificed so much to that point,\” he said. \”But I’m proud of her! Pam is a strong-minded girl. She doesn’t express much her pains or feelings. She knows how to focus on positive thoughts and behaviours. She handled the Olympics’ postponement pretty well.\”

He added she was able to find another focus very quickly in fighting \”social inequalities\” around her community over in Victoria, BC, where she now lives.

\”As for us as a family, I think it was, even more, tougher for us to handle, especially since we were unable to be there physically to comfort her during that moment due to the geo-distance and the Covid restrictions,\” he said.

As the show must go on, the family is happy the Olympics – Pam’s first – was not cancelled altogether and is looking forward to watching her succeed on the world stage.

\”She gave everything she had for this. We want her to enjoy the moment and have fun over there. This is a great life experience for her.\”

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