Three Burns Lake athletes will be representing the Omineca Ski Club at the 2016 B.C. Winter Games in Penticton in about two weeks.
Cole Bender and Ava Nealis will be giving their best in the biathlon competition, and Kyle Nealis will strive for gold in cross-country skiing.
According to head coach Waneta Nealis, the Burns Lake athletes have been training hard for months, getting ready for this season’s busy schedule. Cole and Ava have already competed in two provincial biathlon competitions this season, and are now getting ready for a third competition, which will take place in Whistler this weekend.
This will be Ava’s second time competing at the B.C. Winter Games.
“I am excited to represent our club [Omineca], town, and small communities from across all Northern B.C.,” said Ava.
Their weekly training program includes hours of skiing, shooting, strength training, and other sporting activities.
Although Kyle also trains and competes in biathlon, he has qualified for the cross country team this year. This will be his first time competing at the B.C. Winter Games.
“I’m happy to go to the B.C. Winter Games because I get to compete against the best junior boy biathletes in B.C. and miss school,” he said. “It will be cool to see another part of B.C.”
Over 1700 of B.C.’s best emerging high performance talents have registered for the competition which runs Feb. 25-28. However, only 10 skiers and five biathletes get selected to attend the games for zone seven, which spans from Vanderhoof to Terrace.
Competing in 17 different sports, the athletes are an average of 14 years old and for most, this will be their first experience at a multi-sport games.
These athletes will be supported by 333 coaches and 180 officials. Special Olympians will compete in basketball and figure skating, and athletes with a disability will compete in wheelchair basketball and para cross country skiing.
Volunteers in Penticton have been preparing for the past 18 months to host the games – the fourth time this community has done so. There will be over 1800 volunteers working to ensure the participants have exceptional competition and a first-rate experience with opening and closing ceremonies, special events, and wonderful hospitality.
“Penticton is where the B.C. Games began in 1978, and we are so pleased to be back and benefiting from the history of sport and event hosting in this community,” said Kelly Mann, President and CEO of the B.C. Games Society. “The athletes, coaches, and officials coming to these B.C. Winter Games are taking their first step towards future national and international level competitions and the expertise of the volunteers will make a mark on their journey.”
The B.C. Winter Games have been the starting point for many athletes who have gone on to higher levels of sport. Over 50 per cent of Team B.C. athletes at the 2015 Canada Winter Games were B.C. Games alumni. In addition, eighteen alumni were part of Team Canada at the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games including Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa (ski cross), Summerland’s Justin Kripps (bobsleigh), and Josh Dueck of Vernon in para alpine.