By Rebecca Edwards
The most talented developing athletes from every region of B.C. will travel to Vernon February 23-26 for the 2012 BC Winter Games – including a large team from the Kootenay region, and a number of athletes from the Elk Valley.
The local representation at the bi-annual provincial games includes:
• Fernie Judo Club members Cole Goodman, Sydney Koevoet, Nik Dunn and Kiam Teetzel who will compete both individually and as a team against other young athletes in their weight class.
• Fernie Skating Club figure skaters Gabrielle Runzer and Jodi Stemberger
• Fernie Alpine Ski Team’s Ethan Blair, who will compete in the alpine ski slalom, grand slalom and ski cross events
• Cross country skier Jacob Blair
• Freestyle skier Andrea Byrne
• Hockey players Kimberley Huisman and Lindsey Weech
For many of the young athletes this will be one of the first times they have competed at a provincial level against athletes from outside their regional zones, so it is an introduction to the level of competition they can expect later in their youth sports careers.
Nigel Cooper of Ski Alpine BC says the event is always memorable for young athletes because it is more of a festival and a celebration than many of the competitions that they will experience in their athletic career.
“The games bring kids from across the province and sees them eat, sleep and compete together – that is a pretty exciting thing for them.
“Years later, a lot of kids who attended the BC Games talk about the bus trip, sleeping in a school hall in sleeping bags with all the other kids, or a particular meal they had.
“They really get to interact with the other kids who are competing in their event and other events – it’s very different to the average competition experience where they travel with their club and stay with their team mates or their family and don’t really see other competitors at all.
“This is usually the event where these kids first meet the athletes they will be competing against when they are 18. Many of them will also go on to become coaches, instructors or parents with people they met for the first time at the BC games – there is a really rich history that comes along with the event.”
Fred Gietz, a Fernie Judo Club coach who will travel to the games with the four Elk Valley students and other Kootenay zone teams, added that the Games offer a chance for athletes to mix with competitors from a range of sports.
“It is probably the first multi-sport event that they will have experienced. It feels like a mini-Olympics with a big opening ceremony and closing ceremony, medals and the events.
“They will be competing with kids from all over the province. Generally in Fernie they don’t have that – some of the older kids will go to Calgary or maybe Edmonton but otherwise it is mostly Lethbridge, South Alberta, Invermere, Creston and Salmo.
“Everyone in the Kootenay team qualified at a regional tournament in Creston – they are a good bunch, very keen and very strong – they have been training hard and will have a great event I’m sure.”
Gietz has attended the Games with Fernie Judo Club for the last 15 years and said the club has a particular affinity to the event because it was founded using legacy funds raised when Fernie was the host city of the BC Winter Games in 1987.