Two ex-Olympians, one paralympian, a world champion, a pioneering hockey team and a longstanding Kelowna sports tradition.
There was no shortage of athletic talent or competitive spirit on display Thursday morning at the Coast Capri Hotel as the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame officially honoured its 2017 class of inductees.
• Malindi Elmore—athlete
Elmore realized a childhood dream in 2004 when she competed in the 1,500 metres at the 2004 Olympic Games.
She was a four-time Canadian champion in the 1,500, the 2012 Olympic trials champion, and bronze medal winner at the 2003 World University Games.
Elmore, 37, said her career wouldn’t have been possible without the support of family, coaches and so many others in the community.
“I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve had over the years to pursue my life as an athlete,” said Elmore, a graduate of KSS. “I do believe it takes a village to raise an athlete, so to the city of Kelowna, to my schools, to my university, to all the people over the years…they’ve all inspired me over the years.”
• Conrad Leinemann—athlete
An accomplished athlete in high school in Kelowna, Leinemann took his skills to another level in 1995 when he won the Canadian beach volleyball championship.
Leinemann, a KLO grad, went on to win the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg in 1999. Among the many accomplishments during his beach volleyball career was competing for Canada at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia where his team finished ninth overall.
“It’s an amazing honour to get inducted with all these amazing athletes and builders from the Okanagan, truly honoured,” said Leinemann, who counts the Olympics as the highlight of his career. “Number one is the Olympics, representing Canada on the world stage and walking into the opening ceremonies in front of 110,000 people gives me shivers up my back.”
• Garett Hickling—athlete
Rendered a paraplegic after a fall when he was 16, Hickling went on to become one of Canada’s most celebrated wheelchair athletes of all time.
Hickling won four Paralympic Games medals and five world championship medals—including one gold—during his career in wheelchair rugby. He was also Canada’s flag bearer at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
Hickling, who now lives in London, Ont., travelled home to Kelowna for the induction ceremony.
“It was an incredible career, I met a lot of great people and made great friends,” said Hickling. “Thanks everyone for being here to share this special celebration with us.”
Hickling was inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
• Chris Taneda—builder
Synonymous with karate in the Central Okanagan, Taneda is six-time Canadian karate champion and a four-time world champion.
He was named Karate BC’s coach of the year in 2005 and was an Olympic torch bearer for Canada in 2010. Taneda also received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012.
“I feel very humbled to even be considered in the company of people like Conrad and Malindi, to be within this group of people is an honour,” Taneda said.
• Kelowna Buckaroos hockey—pioneer
The Buckaroos were instrumental in establishing junior A hockey in Kelowna. After joining the Okanagan junior league in 1961, the Bucs became one of four original teams in the B.C. Junior Hockey League in 1967.
The Buckaroos, who won the BCJHL title in 1974, paved the way for the success of both the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets and Kelowna Minor Hockey.
Former team accountant and supporter Tun Wong accepted the honour on behalf of the Buckaroos.
“One common thing that we all had was the fact that we loved hockey,” said Wong. “There was no remuneration in those early days, the kids played for the love of the game, to present wonderful entertainment for the rabid hockey fans in the city of Kelowna.”
• Western Canada Basketball Tournament—Bennett Award
With a rich 44-year history behind it, the Western Canada Basketball Tournament this year earned special recognition from the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame.
The annual tourney at Kelowna Secondary School has grown into one of the country’s most prestigious high school basketball events and continues to attract elite teams each February.