By Mark Dreger
Even the world’s top athletes had to start somewhere.
Young Kelowna athletes gathered at the Rotary Centre for the Arts Wednesday to learn how to prepare for the BC Games taking place during the last weekend of February in Kamloops.
“The guide to the games is an opportunity for athletes, coaches, and officials to all meet together and get their questions answered for the BC Winter Games,” said presenter and UBCO volleyball coach Mike Hawkins. “Often there’s a lot of questions that’s difficult for the BC Games Society to answer through an email or through a package, so they setup these sessions across the province to have people like me come in and provide information to those parents, athletes, and couches.”
Nearly 100 athletes, family, and friends crammed inside the room to learn how to best enjoy the exciting occasion with lists of what to bring, where to go, and what to expect.
Two local athletes, Shayna Little and Kiera Swift, will be participating in the games in alpine ski racing with both hoping to win gold..
“I started ski racing in Ontario, so when we moved out here I just continued it,” Little said. “My Dad used to do [ski] racing, so I got put into it and I loved it, so I just kept going.”
Both hope to take part in the Winter Olympics “as soon as possible” to compete in alpine ski racing.
“I think it’s important to give athletes, especially the younger aged, the experience of the games,” Hawkins said. “The games really are more than just the competition: It’s the full experience of being able to meet other like-minded people from all across the province and it’s important for them to soak in the full experience.”
Many big-name Olympians have participated in BC Games, like Kelowna native and 2014 Olympic silver freestyle skiing medalist Kelsey Serwa, speed skater Denny Morrison, and even Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.
“I think as athlete’s progress down their pathway, it’s really easy to get caught up in the club team that you play for and the high school you play for, but once you represent something that’s bigger than that, that’s bigger than you, I think it takes on something a little more special,” Hawkins said.
“There’s a couple guys that are on our UBCO Heat volleyball team that competed in the Canada Games and they came third and they were glowing after the summer just how much it meant to them to represent B.C.; to represent the entire province and to have success in the games.”
Roughly 1,800 athletes, coaches, and officials will participate in the BC Games with 100-150 coming from Kelowna. Athletes will compete in events like the Olympians will this month like curing, figure skating, snowboarding, speed skating, and multiple skiing events to name a few.