Back in the spring of 2016, Kevin Flaherty, a junior at Beverly High, began thinking about how much fun it would be to plan a Summer Olympics for his group of friends. His thought was to compile teams of two to compete for bragging rights across a number of various backyard games.
Soon enough, Flaherty shared his idea with a couple of friends and they all ran with it, thus marking the birth of the Garden City Olympic Games. There hasn’t been a Beverly summer without it since.
This past weekend marked the fourth year in a row that The Games have been held. With each passing summer, the GCOG has only become more enjoyable, more exciting and more efficient, as the group of athletes continue to build upon the lessons learned from prior years.
Logistics-wise, the competitors pitch tents in the backyard of what has been named, Morency Manor, electing to spend the entire weekend together from sun-up to sun-down. Meals, too, are spent in each other’s company, as costs are calculated prior to The Games and then split among the group in order to purchase enough eggs, burgers and pizza to feed 20-something high school and college kids for three days.
The group of athletes itself ranges from the original group of athletes, who are now rising juniors in college, to the most recent additions to the field, which includes one rising high school senior and a handful of graduating seniors.
This time around, The Games featured a grueling-yet-manageable slate of 21 events, starting on Friday, June 21 and ending on Sunday, June 23. The events themselves are spread across the spectrum; from classic backyard games like cornhole and Bocce, to pool-based activities like pool basketball and chicken fights, all the way to absurd contests such as soap hockey and the Triathlon de Michael Road.
Brackets are drawn up for each event with teams fighting for gold, silver and bronze medals. A gold medal is worth five points, a silver Medal is worth three points and a bronze medal is worth one point. Teams are also allowed to double down in one event, meaning that any points earned from that event will double in amount. The total points for each team are kept track of throughout the weekend and the team with the most points at the end of The Games is declared the winner, earning the right to hoist the Arnold Palmer Memorial Trophy high into the sky.
This past Sunday, it was Iceland, a squad consisting of Patrick Gavin and Johnny Jones, that celebrated a gold medal finish in the fourth edition of the Garden City Olympic Games. The duo finished with an impressive 46 points but the championship did not come easy. In fact, the fate of the 2019 GCOG came down to the final game of the final event: the spikeball gold medal game between Iceland and the close runner-ups, UWSR.
Coming into this year, UWSR’s Brian Harty and Kyle Chouinard were paired up due to last second drop-outs by their original partners. However, Harty was voted the MVP of the 2016 GCOG and Chouinard was the defending, back-to-back champion of The Games, taking home the bacon in both 2017 and 2018. Therefore, their newly-formed UWSR squad was considered a top contender to take home the gold in this year’s Games.
Heading into the spikeball championship game, Iceland had accumulated 41 points, while UWSR had earned 36 points with their double down in spikeball still in their back pocket. An Iceland victory would mean five points and a first-place finish in The Games for Gavin and Jones. A UWSR victory, on the other hand, would mean 10 points and Chouinard’s third straight championship.
It was a picture-perfect ending to an incredible weekend full of competition, excitement and heartbreak.
The Games opened up this year with Jake Thomas of Team Visigoths taking home the gold in The Beverly Open, a.k.a. 18 holes of mini-golf played at Richardson’s in Middleton. The next morning saw Somalia’s Connor Cademartori defend his triathlon title with yet another gold medal finish. Chicken fights brought about the grit of the Olympics, which can be expressed in no better way than when Sunnyvale’s Sean Gavin hopped in front of an outdoor hose, washing off all of the blood on his body that came by way of an elbow to the nose, before hopping back onto Luke Samperi’s shoulders to earn their team a bronze medal.
The nightcap saw the day’s excitement and energy culminate in the final event as Melber’s Chris Cole and Hugh Calice took home the gold in Soap hockey under the lights in front of a group of competitors, family members and fans.
Sunday, the final day of competition, was where the top three squads of Iceland, UWSR and Melber began to pull away from the pack and set up the dramatic ending that everyone was hoping for. After Kyle Chouinard’s gold medal in the home run derby and a pair of gold medals for Iceland in 21 and NBA JAM (2-on-2 basketball), the athletes made their way to Lynch Park for the final slate of events; beach volleyball, bocce, bottle bash and spikeball.
The Arnold Palmer Memorial Trophy was brought out for the first time in a year, a huge argument broke out in bocce, and Iceland and UWSR had pulled away from Melber, making it a two horse race for the gold.
With all of the blood, sweat and tears that had been poured out over the course of the previous 48 hours hanging heavy in the air, the four athletes competed in the middle of Lynch Park for the honor to be named a champion of the 2019 Garden City Olympic Games.
Ultimately, Iceland gained an early lead that it would never give up on its way to a 21-12 victory in spikeball, thus sealing the gold medal finish for Gavin and Jones, a silver medal for Chouinard and Harty and a bronze medal for Melber’s Calice and Cole.
In storybook fashion, the Arnold Palmer Memorial Trophy presentation was conducted in the Lynch Park Rose Garden, while the setting sun showered everything in gold, perhaps as a tribute to the effort given by each athlete in their pursuit for their own gold. In the most iconic garden in Beverly, Iceland lifted the trophy high into the sky, marking the end of another successful summer for the Garden City Olympic Games and initiating the countdown until next year’s Games.
While watching Iceland celebrate their victory on Sunday, Kyle Chouinard muttered a sentiment that can be found in almost all of the GCOG’s athletes.
“I’m coming back with a vengeance next year.”