It all started with shooting free-throws with her dad in their backyard, and now a Silver City woman is poised to leap onto the world stage as head of Team Canada’s University Summer Games contingent.
Theresa Hanson, daughter of Bill and Lola Hanlon of Trail, is Canada’s Chef de Mission for Universiade 2013, aka the World University Summer Games, in Kazan, Russia July 6-17.
“I am excited, I’m really looking forward to the experience and I think we and all the athletes will represent Canada well,” said Hanson from Vancouver Wednesday.
As Chef de Mission, Hanson’s duties are many and varied. She is not only spokesperson for the Canadian contingent, but requires an encyclopedic knowledge of sports and sports regulations at international levels as well as a high level of diplomatic acumen to interact with sports officials and various heads of state. However, her main function is to safeguard the interests of Canadian athletes, coaches, and officials especially in crisis situations.
“It is a big undertaking, and I guess in the end the buck stops with the head of delegation, in terms of all the conduct and just making sure everyone is safe, and everyone is behaving, and everybody is representing their country with pride and with class and all that goes with that.”
Hanson was born and raised in Trail where she excelled in basketball and track, eventually earning a basketball scholarship to Lewis and Clark State College in Lewiston.
Following graduation, a move to Vancouver saw her begin a career in financial planning, but years later she returned to her roots, switching careers to sports administration at Langara College in the mid-90s before joining the University of British Columbia as associate director of athletics in 2005.
“It is doing something I love, I’m involved with the student athletes, and at the end of the day if I can make a positive difference in their lives and what they do then I consider doing my job well,” said Hanson.
As with most success stories, Hanson credits much of her rise in the sports world to her parents, and her West Kootenay upbringing.
“I grew up playing basketball, I mean we had the best home-court advantage in our backyard,” said Hanson. “We’d have free-throw competitions everyday and half the time it would be in the dark. The backyard hoop that was a big part of our outdoor activities . . . But both my parents have been my guiding lights. My dad coached in Trail for all those years, and always had a positive attitude and trying to make a difference, and that’s certainly what I’m hoping to do.”
It is the second University Games for the UBC associate director of Intercollegiate and High Performance Sport, who went to Serbia in 2009 as a member of the mission staff for Canada.
“This is my first go in the Chef de Mission position, but we do have the largest Canadian delegation that has ever been to a Canadian Summer Universiade and we’ll have close to 500 people,” she added.
The task seems monumental, but Hanson takes it all in stride, comparing it to her everyday duties in her position running varsity athletics at UBC. Still, she admits there will be challenges.
“We’re going into a foreign country, and Russia is not easy, so managing the culture, and the laws in Russia with really young adults 18-24 year olds . . . and all that goes with that, you do have to be not just politically savvy, but also know the sports, and know what it takes for the athlete to succeed on the world stage, so we’re there to support them, the coaches and the athletes.”
Hanson made a trip to Kazan in April and was impressed with the 27 new venues, which feature team rooms, recovery rooms, and hot and cold pools. The aquatic pool alone is 200 metres long, 100 meters wide, and cost 140 million Euros.
The city of 1.2 million is home to 15-20 universities that share a common student housing village where the athletes will be staying, and is expected to be the largest ever University Summer Games with over 10,000 participants.
Hanson is relishing the experience, but like any good free-throw shooter, the Trail native has her eye firmly set on her next shot.
“I have always had a goal of participating, and to be on the staff for the Olympic Games, so this is one step closer to that, and it is a big coup, and I’m really proud of the fact that I am Chef de Mission.
“It is a really great opportunity, and at the same time, I’m doing what I love.”