Locals off to ‘mini Olympics’

Four from the Whitewater Ski Team will race at BC Games at Silverstar later this month

Young athletes from across the province are preparing for the BC Winter games this month vying for top spots in their respective disciplines. However, for the four members of the Whitewater Ski Team who will be racing in Vernon, it’s just another opportunity for a memorable experience.

“It’s a huge achievement just to get to the BC Winter Games, so as far as goals with their performance when they’re there, I don’t want to build up any big expectations for them,” said Dylan Henderson, Whitewater Ski Team head coach.

“I want them to go there and have fun and just have a great experience.”

The four young Whitewater athletes made the Kootenay team along with skiers from Rossland, Kimberley, Fernie and Panorama.

“They’re absolutely thrilled, as far as an experience with any of the sports that they’ve done up to this point, this is the biggest event that they will have gone to and they’re very excited,” said Henderson.

The Whitewater Ski Team head coach said he helped prepare his skiers mentally and physically for the qualifying races at both Kimberley and Panorama, but attending the BC Games wasn’t a big focus for the team.

“Going into it I didn’t pump them up too much because I didn’t know how many were going to make it in and for the ones that didn’t make it in I didn’t want to let them down at all,” he said, adding that once the four qualified he started to explain what it was they actually qualified for and both the parents and kids were astonished.

“It’s quite amazing. The athletes pay a small amount that’s required and then everything else is covered by the provincial government… it’s really like a mini Olympics,” he said.

“We’re very proud, she’s worked very hard and we’re so glad that she has this opportunity to show her best,” said Brenda Mitchell, whose daughter Haley, 11, will be attending the Games.

Along with Haley, Whitewater’s Savannah Leishman, 12, Jesse Thurston, 11, and Liam Jones, 11, will be racing in Vernon late February.

“With skiers at this age I’m very careful setting up goals like qualifying for events like this because they’ve got a lot of years ahead of them in the program and I don’t want to discourage any athletes that didn’t qualify,” said Henderson.

“The athletes that didn’t qualify this time could be the ones qualifying for major events in a year or two… there’s a lot of stages within athletic development and at this young age I just don’t want to build them up too much with pressure to perform.”

“It wasn’t one of my long term goals [to make it to the BC Games] but I’m quite happy that I made it in,” said Jones, adding that he’s just going to try and do his best at the event.

The young athletes said they’re just “taking it as it comes,” and while qualifying for the event wasn’t necessarily what most of them were focusing on this season, they’re excited for the experience.

“I want them to be realistic about why they’re doing the sport, which is for the fun of it and for the team aspect,” said Henderson.

“Later on these sorts of goals of making events is all part of personal development within the sport, but at this point I really want a team atmosphere and a supportive environment for all the athletes on the team.”