The BC Winter Games have always been a great chance for coaches and athletes to experience moving on to higher levels of competition in excellent facilities that they may not have many chances to compete in on a regular basis.
Many of these athletes have gone on to represent B.C. and Canada at the national and international level, including the Olympics.
This year’s version of the Games, to be held in Kamloops Feb. 22-25, will feature 13 local athletes as well as eight coaches and adult supervisors from the Bulkley Valley area. They will be members of the North West Zone team.
Laurence Turney will be the head coach of the curling team which features a strong contingent of locals. Oliver Kildaw will skip the squad which has only been together a relatively short time. He has been to the Games before when the team finished in fourth position and feels that this time will be very much a learning experience.
He will will be joined by Duncan Kildaw at third rock , Brett Pierce at second and Kris McLean at lead. The spare will be Alex Chaplin. John Pierce will be the adult supervisor for the team.
Turney is enthusiastic about this year’s squad despite the fact that they have only been together as a team since December.
The season’s snow has not hurt the practice and competitive opportunities for those who like to glide over hill and dale. A dozen alpine and cross-country skiers, and snowboarders will be waxing up as they ready themselves for Kamloops.
Dick Eastmere will be the head coach for the alpine ski team which will compete at the SunPeaks ski area. His charges will include local skiers Amelia D’Andrea, Bridie Hikisch and Ava MacDougall.
Hikisch said that she was excited to be heading to the competition and was looking forward to doing well. She has been skiing for about 10 years and is excited to be going to the Games for the slalom and giant slalom events.
“I like the giant slalom (GS) best. The gates are wider apart. I’ve done a lot more of GS and I feel that I’m better at it,” she said.
As far as the snowy weather is concerned, “It’s great having a ton of snow. I love the snow ,” she said.
She said that she would like to finish in the top third of the field.
The skiers are coming out of solid training and recent performances in local races. Sara D’Andrea will be the adult supervisor for the team.
Another head coach for the contingent headed to Kamloops will be Alan Baxter. Local cross-country skiers have been starting to appear higher up the list at the national level and those results will undoubtedly encourage those at the BC Games.
Gregory Baxter and Connor Murphy have both been on the rise this year and are looking to be among the top finishers at the Stake Lake Ski Trails in Lac La Jeune.
One of the hottest sports this season for those wanting to go down those slopes quickly has been snowboarding and the locals are well represented.
Warren Pali has been named the head coach of the team. Previous head coach of the Smithers Ski and Snowboard Club Jan Wengelin has been named to the national coaching staff.
Local snowboarders Brianna Belisle and Kaitlyn Peterson will be showing the opposition how it’s done. Recent competitions have brought home excellent results including a first place for Peterson. The snowboarders will also compete at the Sun Peaks venue.
Several sports have become associated with the Winter Games even though they are not considered traditional “winter” activities. Archery, badminton, diving, netball, judo, karate, as well as wheelchair basketball and Special Olympics basketball are all part of the Kamloops offering. These sports have been added to the Winter Games in order to more evenly distribute the number of sports and participants between the summer and winter versions.
In addition, there is the always popular sport of gymnastics. Local gymnast Ava Morrison was recently named to the team where she will be a strong contender, especially in the floor exercise event. The gymnastics competition will take place at the Tournament Capitol Centre in Kamloops.
The Games will provide an excellent chance for the young athletes and their coaches to learn about a multi-sport event from the closest possible position. The overall experience of travelling and staying as a team is a value that cannot be underestimated.