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MacDonald reflects on stellar heavy events career

Father Doug MacDonald’s experience in – and love for – the Antigonish Highland Games’ heavy events competition started at a young age. Contributed
Father Doug MacDonald’s experience in – and love for – the Antigonish Highland Games’ heavy events competition started at a young age. Contributed - Corey LeBlanc
ANTIGONISH, N.S. —

His passion for watching the Scottish heavy events at the Antigonish Highland Games (AHG) started at a young age.    

Father Doug MacDonald is now a member of the Antigonish Highland Society Games’ Hall of Fame, honoured for excellence – both nationally and internationally – in his beloved sport.    

“I was a bundle of energy as a kid, as my mother [Rona] can attest,” the now Roman Catholic priest with the Diocese of Antigonish said in an email prior to his July 11 induction as part of the Class of 2019.    

“I was mesmerized watching the heavy events as a little boy; however, there were no youth heavy events.    

“I continued to watch the throwers at the Highland Games and once university sports ended, I started throwing,” the St. F.X. graduate added.    

When approached about the hall-of-fame honour, the always humble athlete initially balked at the recognition.    

“But, after further reflection, I realized this could help promote Highland Games, heavy events and our culture,” MacDonald said. 

“Antigonish and the Highland Games have been good to me over the years and I am grateful to many for investing in me. Perhaps it’s time for me to give back and be involved the future.”    

When he started pursuing the sport, MacDonald received tremendous support from local legends, including Marty Gilfoy, who helped train him, while Jim Sears shared his equipment, so he  could practice in his backyard.    

As his induction citation also reads, Billy Morris saw his passion for the sport and shared training videos to help his technique, while Archie Huntley cut MacDonald his first two cabers, which he used – for more than two hours a day – to help figure out and hone his technique.    

In 1995, he spent time backpacking in Europe, which included a stop in Scotland, where he trained for a few weeks with heavy events champion Francis Brebner.     

One year later, he won his first Maritime championship, with back-to-back crowns in the North American amateur championship coming in 1997 and 1998.     

MacDonald excelled in the caber toss, capturing five consecutive world championships in the discipline.    

When asked about a ‘signature moment’ in his career, he reflected on turning the challenge caber, when the Antigonish Highland Games hosted the world championships in 2003. 

“I was the only one to turn it, amidst the top throwers in the world,” MacDonald said.    

He noted, at 21’6” and 160 lbs, it is the only record he still holds.    

“This special moment did not happen in isolation, but rather with the support of a healthy community,” he noted.    

“Donny MacEachern [long-time Games’ heavy events chair] and the Highland Society steadily encouraged me, by increasingly bringing in quality athletes each year to challenge me.    

“Over the course of 11 years the community facilitated my development, culminating in this record caber toss,” MacDonald added.    

In that same international event, in front of a hometown crowd, he finished third overall, his best result on the world championship stage.    

In the prime of his career, the four-time and reigning Canadian champion retired after the 2004 season to focus on his seminary studies.    

MacDonald was ordained to the priesthood in 2008.

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