Daniel Loban gave his best impression of Olympic snowboarder Sebastian Toutant as he posed on the Kamloops 2018 B.C. Games podium.
Throwing his hands in the air with a medal draped around his neck might be something that is commonplace among the young medal winners participating in the provincial multisport competition, but it is new for this group. As well for the three females who won medals in snowboard cross at Sun Peaks on Friday because for the first time in 40 years snowboarding events are included in the Games.
“I think it is pretty sick, especially because there is a lot of young athletes in snowboarding that are going to get a chance to compete in the B.C. Games. It is a stepping stone to bigger contests that is for sure. It is definitely a good atmosphere,” said Loban after the snowboard cross event.
It was after the Penticton 2016 B.C. Winter Games that B.C. Snowboard approached the B.C. Games Society to include the sport into the multisport Games that occur every two years.
“It has been a great Games experience for the athletes to the coaches,” said Cathy Astofooroff, executive director of Snowboard B.C. “It is a chance for great exposure to the sport reaching kids and parents who we may not have otherwise touched.”
Astofooroff said B.C. has a growing snowboard culture and the senior team feeds 80 per cent of the national snowboard cross team.
“Every event we do — whether it is clubs, camps, officials training or education — it all helps build an athletic pathway for athletes and coaches and the Games are now definitely part of that pathway.”
Kelly Mann, president and CEO of the B.C. Games Society said they go back to the provincial sport organizations every cycle to ask new sports to apply to be a part of the Games, to amend their programs and age groupings. It is up to the sport organization to have the administration capacity and they must have athletes, at minimum, in six of the eight zones that compete in the Games.
Mann believes it is an important role the B.C. Games Society holds to help foster growth in sport, from the athletes to the coaches.
For some participants it is a stepping stone on to further development provincially, nationally and then on the world stage at the Olympics. At the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, 19 B.C. Games and Team B.C. alumni suited up for Team Canada. The snowboard team included six athletes from British Columbia. And there is other athletes like Kelsey Serwa, competing in her third Olympics, who have benefitted from the support B.C. provides its athletes at different levels.
“Right now there is kids competing here in Kamloops that in eight years, there is no reason they can’t be on an Olympic podium,” said Mann. “B.C. has such a strong sport system investment from the provincial government. Look at the Olympic team right now, 25 per cent of the athletes are from British Columbia.”