Markham resident and business owner Daniel Ng is excited. At 42, he is preparing for this summer’s Pan American (Pan Am) Games both as a competitive athlete and entrepreneur. Making it past the last hurdle, team trials to be held in Montreal at the end of May, will mark the ultimate realization of his passion for archery, a sport he discovered when he was four years old and that is currently capturing the world’s imagination thanks to movies like The Hunger Games and The Avengers.
“The fact that the Games are being held in Markham is just awesome,” says Ng. “Not only are we able to promote sport and help kids see what’s out there, it will bring business to the city. Everyone knows the Games will be here. It’s the perfect icebreaker to reach out to new markets.”
The Pan Am Games is the world’s third-largest international multi-sport competition, after the Summer Olympics and the Asian Games. More than 7,000 of the world’s best athletes from 41 countries across the Americas and Caribbean will compete in 36 Pan Am sports from July 10 to 26 and 15 Parapan Am sports from August 7 to 15. Competitions in more than 15 sports at the Toronto Games will qualify athletes for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Canada has hosted the Games twice before, in 1967 and 1999, both times in Winnipeg. The Toronto Games will involve municipalities from Oshawa to Welland, supported by 24,000 volunteers and a budget of $1.4 billion – of which about half was directed to capital development projects.
This is a big deal for the GTA and particularly Markham, where the $78.5-million Markham Pan Am/Parapan Am Centre will host badminton, table tennis, para-table tennis, and water polo competitions. Angus Glen Golf Club, which has hosted the Canadian Open twice, was selected as the site of the first-ever Pan Am Games golf tournament. (See sidebar.)
The Games take place every four years, in the year preceding the Summer Olympics, and were first held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1951. (The Parapan Am Games launched in Mexico City in 1999.) Archery made its debut in the Pan Am Games in 1979 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Daniel Ng, currently ranked eighth in Canada, is hoping to be one of the 64 men and women competing in archery at the 2015 Games in Toronto.
His path to the Games started with a chance encounter. Born in Hong Kong, Ng immigrated to Toronto with his family when he was two years old. In kindergarten, a classmate brought in a homemade bow and arrow for show and tell. “The teacher brought us outside so we could all try shooting one arrow,” says Ng. “I remember taking my very first shot and watching the arrow. That was it.”
For years he tried to convince his parents to let him take archery lessons, but they viewed the bow and arrow as a weapon and refused. He gave up asking when he was 16. By that time, he was well on his way to becoming an entrepreneur.
Ng’s parents owned restaurants, and from an early age, he was involved in the family business. He credits his parents with teaching him the ins and outs of the restaurant business and encouraging him to work his way up from busboy to management.
At 25, after helping grow the family business to seven restaurants, he started EKDN Business Investment and Management Group in Markham, which offers consulting services and develops real estate. As a young husband, father, and entrepreneur travelling the country for business, Ng’s involvement with the sport he first fell in love with in kindergarten was limited to watching movies that featured archery.
Fast forward to 2010 and the economic downturn, which afforded him time to finally pursue his passion. “I had friends who were members of a local archery club, and I decided this was my time to take it up. I started shooting, practising, learning all I could about bows and making the perfect string, so all the tension in the strands are even. I joined the club so I could shoot whenever I wanted. I loved it.”
He began entering competitions, and in his first year was ranked 19th in Canada. In 2012, he was six points short of qualifying for the London Summer Olympics. People started to approach Ng to coach them. It was around this time that he decided to merge the worlds of sport and business and launch a retail store, Target Pro Archery. In 2014, he opened the Target Pro Archery School, which has already had 5,000 students come through its doors.
Ng fits his own training around his work schedule and classes. A typical day sees him out the door by 8 a.m. and practising until noon before heading first to the office and then to his classes for intermediate students. After that, he drives to another archery club in Brampton that has an indoor facility where he will practise until 3 a.m. “I want to shoot between 500 and 600 quality arrows each day,” says Ng. “When you make that shot, you feel the energy of the bow extending to the arrow. It’s not just about strength and endurance, it’s the mental focus you need to have. Each arrow counts. If you make one bad shot, you’re done because to make up one or two points in competition is very difficult. It looks simple, but so much technique is involved. ”
Archery can be distinguished from other athletic pursuits by its emphasis on stillness and accuracy. The archer who shoots the most arrows into the centre of the target wins. The challenge: the target is located 70 metres away and measures just 122 centimetres in diameter and only 12.2 centimetres at its centre.
Ng’s passion is undeniable. He describes his “itch” to shoot as AAD (Acute Archery Deficiency). That itch led him to a bronze medal at last year’s Canadian Spring Classic competition held at Markham’s Bill Crothers Secondary School. His goal for the Pan Am Games is to qualify among the top 16 and, ultimately, to stand on the podium. To make that happen, he is doing all he can to ensure he hits the bull’s eye every time.
The Pan Am Games Turn the Spotlight on Markham
Located in Markham’s developing downtown core, the Markham Pan Am/Parapan Am Centre (known as the Atos Markham Pan Am/Parapan Am Centre during the Games) features a triple gymnasium with approximately 3,345 square metres for training, competition, and community use, as well as a 10-lane, 50-metre Olympic-sized swimming pool. The 12.5-metre-high clear ceilings of the Centre’s field house meet international badminton and volleyball requirements.
If Markham’s Michelle Li, Canada’s top-ranked women’s singles badminton player (ranked 14th globally), qualifies for the Toronto Pan Am Games – and there is every reason to believe she will – it will be the first time she plays before a hometown crowd. “I’ve never had the chance to compete in front of my friends and family before,” she says. “To have the Games in Markham makes it mean so much more for me.”
Li won gold in the women’s singles and doubles at the Guadalajara 2011 Pan Am Games, and in 2014 she became the first woman to win gold in singles badminton at the Commonwealth Games. She is looking forward to showing off the Markham Pan Am/Parapan Am Centre to fellow competitors. “It’s the first facility in Canada designed specifically for badminton. It’s got high ceilings, great floors, and the design is impressive.”
“It will be able to host high-level tournaments from around the world,” says Li. “I think that’s great.”
Also great: for the first time in its history, golf will be part of the Pan Am Games, and Markham’s world-class Angus Glen Golf Club has been selected to host the event. The tournament will include men’s and women’s competitions and feature 64 professional and amateur players who will tee off for the 72-hole competition on Angus Glen’s new South Course. The Pan Am Games tournament caps a milestone year for award-winning Angus Glen, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary and has a strong track record of hosting major national and international events, most recently the World Junior Girls Championship in 2014.