Dillon Giancola: Ditching my gold pan for a tennis racket


Every once in a while,a weekend comes along where I get to try my hand at several new sports. It’s very exciting and fun, unless I do poorly, which, unfortunately, is most of the time.

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The August long weekend was the latest, and it started off with me testing my luck at the 2019 Celebrity Gold Panning Challenge at the Taylor World Invitational Gold Panning Championships.

You may recall I took part last year, when I came in 10th place. I was sure that 2019 would bring a different result, and a podium finish. I had a new technique — carefully scrape away the top layer of gravel and sand, advice given to me by editor Matt Preprost — and newfound speed.

The competition began and I furiously washed the water around my pan, scraping the top off as fast as I could to find my golden nugget.

“Gold!” cried the winner, just 60 seconds in. That winner was not me. Instead, it was six-year old Blake Brown. That’s right, I lost to a six-year old. Now, I wasn’t the only adult to lose to a six-year old that day, but I was the only one to come in sixth place. Sixth sounds almost respectable, if you leave out the fact that it took me two different sessions to find my gold.

So, three sessions over two years and I’ve only found gold once. I have no choice but to conclude that I’m not good and will never be good at gold panning.

I am, however, still pretty good at tennis. Tennis isn’t new to me — I’ve been playing most of my life — but this was my first time playing in three years. I started off badly — double-faulting on soft serves into the net and getting killed repeatedly on short balls at the net.

However, they don’t call me Dillon “Federer” Giancola because of my good looks. I stormed back, found a hard and consistent first serve, and made steady shots to place the pressure on my opponent, who made unforced error after unforced error.

I did so well, I even had four match points. Did I win? Heck no. I wasted those match points like Roger Federer did in the Wimbledon final last month against Novak Djokovic — but, I regained my confidence in my tennis skills, and am available to be challenged any day for the rest of the summer.

Lastly, I went fishing for what felt like the first time in 15 years. I still didn’t catch a fish (much like gold panning), but I did eventually find the entrance to Boulder Lake. It took about an hour, and plenty of debate about where it could be with two other parties who were also lost and searching for the lake, but we found it.

It wasn’t what I hoped for, but it was a win of sorts. Considering how my weekend had gone up to that point, that was just fine by me. 

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnfsj.ca.

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