Kootenay amateur athletes are emerging as key contributors to the sport performance pathway in Canada.
With five athletes from the East and West Kootenay being named to Team Canada for the 2022 Winter Olympics, it is exciting to know that the region is brimming with talented athletes following in their footsteps.
There are currently 73 targeted athletes in the amateur sport sector from across the Columbia Basin in Olympic and Paralympic sports.
“This is a whopping 332 per cent increase over the past six years,” said James Brotherhood, a Sport Development Specialist. “Each provincial sport organization utilizes provincial, national and international performance metrics to identify athletes for ‘targeting’ and they receive access to programs and performance supports to help them along their development path.”
The 2022 Olympians include Rossland’s Rémi and Jasmine Drolet (alternate) of the Black Jack Ski Club, who compete in Nordic skiing, along with Amelia Smart and Cassidy Grey of Invermere in downhill skiing, and Courtney Hoffos of Windermere in ski cross.
While Jasmine did not make the trip to Beijing, she competed at the 2022 World Jr. Nordic Ski championships in Lygna, Norway, finishing eighth overall in the five-km classic, one of the strongest results ever by a Canadian woman.
This increase of high performance athletes, coupled with a pre-pandemic trend of three per cent annual increased sport participation in the Basin is indicative of an improving sport system, explained Brotherhood.
”The investments in coaching, organizational capacity, accessibility and athlete supports from a range of contributors have undoubtedly played an important role in this growth.”
One contributor to this growth was Columbia Basin Trust’s three-million-dollar, multi-year Physical Literacy and Youth Sport Initiative (PLAYS) that was linked to the Trust’s strategic plan from 2016-2020.
This initiative included granting opportunities for coach training, sport and recreation infrastructure and other programs. Others include KidSport, Athletics for Kids, and JumpStart who have led initiatives to decrease barriers to participation, and improve gender equity and diversity in sport.
“The most significant contributor is of course the volunteers who form the backbone of our amateur sport system to deliver accessible and equitable quality sport programs within our communities,” said Brotherhood.
Approximately 1,000 dedicated sport leaders of non-profit sport organizations; 5,000 coaches; and countless volunteers deliver programming to the participants and support the events and fundraising activities of the local sport organizations.
Communities throughout the Columbia Basin have a rich and storied history of sporting excellence and community development through sport.
Time will tell what the short and long-term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on sport participation will be. But the impact of quality sport experiences persists and leads to lifelong physical and mental health benefits.
“Hopefully our local sport leaders, volunteers, and participants will return in full force so that we can continue these trends of both increased participation and talented individuals having the opportunity to achieve their potential at the highest levels in sport.”