For the first time in the Montreal Highland Games’ 42-year history, women competed professionally in the athletics events.
Hundreds of pipers, drummers and athletes descended on Verdun for the annual event at the Douglas Hospital grounds on Sunday.
The annual games cap a weekend of festivities to celebrate the long history of Scottish culture in the province. As usual, there were pipe bands and the popular athletics competitions, including the sheaf toss.
“You know what? It’s funny,” laughed athlete Josée Morneau. “I was wondering for the last few years if it was going to happen.”
She has competed for 22 years all over the world. Originally from the Eastern Townships, she moved to Winnipeg more than 20 years ago.
She’s been hoping for a long time that she would finally compete at the games in her home province.
And it’s about time, she says.
Four women in all were invited to participate, including another Quebecer, Marie-Audrey Ross, a nurse who works at Charles-Le Moyne Hospital in Longueuil.
“It’s really an honour to be there and to compete among those ladies who’ve been competing for years and years,” she told Global News.
They’re competing in all the same events the men do, but against each other, like the weight for distance, the sheaf toss and the caber toss.
Morneau says she has been asking for many years for women athletes to compete at the Montreal games.
“We have to be honest — there’s a lot of women competing now, but it’s still a man’s world,” she said.
But she credits the athletics director for making it possible, and hopes to have even more women next year.
Organizers say including women is a great opportunity to grow the games and be more inclusive.
“There’s no restrictions whatsoever,” games president Brian MacKenzie said. “The fact that we have women representing this year just completes the circle.”
Morneau says it’s important for the next generation too.
“I have a daughter who’s 8-years-old now. She just asked me a few weeks ago at a Highland games to start throwing,” Morneau laughed.
She plans to start coaching her daughter in two years.
WATCH: (Aug. 1, 2019) The Highland Games are back to celebrate Scottish culture