Besties turned Olympians bring small-town pride to Smiths Falls

·2 min read
Signs like this one sit on nearly every street corner in in the downtown area of Smiths Falls, Ont, while matching banners hang at the entrances to the town and outside town hall.  (Robyn Miller/CBC - image credit)
Signs like this one sit on nearly every street corner in in the downtown area of Smiths Falls, Ont, while matching banners hang at the entrances to the town and outside town hall. (Robyn Miller/CBC - image credit)

An "Olympic frenzy of excitement" is sweeping through the town of Smiths Falls, Ont., where childhood friends Brooke Henderson and Bailey Andison will compete in different sports at Tokyo 2020.

Brooke Henderson will represent Team Canada in women's golf, while first-time Olympian Bailey Andison will swim in the 200-metre individual medley.

"There's so much emotion. I'm excited, I'm nervous, I'm just over the moon," said Andison's mom Bronwyn Charles.

Charles said Andison and Henderson, both now 23, have been good friends since junior kindergarten and it's "mind-blowing" to see them both compete at the same Olympic Games.

"We don't know if a meteor had passed over the town that year or something, but some incredibly competitive world-class athletes have emerged out of our community at that point in time," joked Smiths Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow.

Smiths Falls is supporting and celebrating the pair with banners and signs on every street corner in its downtown, which were the brainchild of clothing store owner Sherrie Axford.

Robyn Miller/CBC
Robyn Miller/CBC

At first she printed about 100, but Andison's aunt Katrina Ryder said the effort started to "snowball" to about 450 signs.

"I just want to thank the whole town, the community, for making it so fun and just such a great experience," Ryder said.

One of Andison's biggest supporters, her grandfather Laurie Saywell, swelled with pride as he walked his neighborhood and saw the signs.

Andison learned to swim in his backyard pool, starting when she was just two years old, and it used to be his job to get his granddaughter to the pool for her early morning practice.

Robyn Miller/CBC
Robyn Miller/CBC

Eyes on Tokyo

At the Smiths Falls Golf and Country Club where Henderson learned to play, young golfers are eager to watch her tee off for gold.

Henderson's cousin, 12-year-old Isaac Drummond, said he will keep a close eye on her swing as he and his family cheer her on.

WATCH | Small town of Smiths Falls, Ont., celebrates two Olympic athletes headed to Tokyo

"Try to replicate that because that's gotten her so far. ... We're all proud of you and knock them all dead at the Olympics," he said, hoping the message would be relayed to Henderson.

Hillary Blair, 19, said watching Henderson and Andison compete at the Olympics makes her want to work harder.

"I think it's really cool that Brooke and Bailey are going out at the same time. It's just really awesome for being such a small town, such a big accomplishment," she said.

Andison will compete in her first heat on Monday, and Henderson will hit the links on Aug. 4.

Robyn Miller/CBC
Robyn Miller/CBC
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