Ethan Hess returned from the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George with something tangible to show for it — a bronze medal.
Proud as he was of it, Hess felt he left a little extra glory on the table as he placed fourth in two other events.
The Pemberton resident and Spud Valley Nordic Club member had his strongest event, sprinting to third place in the 800m sit-ski sprint para male event on Feb. 24. His time of two minutes, 27.00 seconds placed him 21 seconds off the gold medal pace of Alberta's Derek Zaplotinsky.
"(In) the sprint race, I was incredibly happy with my performance," said the 15 year old. "It was incredible. It was the best race of my life."
He explained his sprint mindset was a simple one: just go.
"I just went really, really hard. That was basically it. I didn't do anything special other than to ski very, very hard," he said. "I didn't fall in any of the corners, and that's always a risk in the sprints.
"The corners are a lot easier to handle in the distance races."
Hess acknowledged he was disappointed with his longer-distance showings, as he took a conservative tack and found he had some energy left in the tank at the end of his races. In the 2.5-kilometre event, Hess was on his own island in a way, as 12 seconds separated the three medallists, but he was a minute off the podium. However, he was also two and a half minutes up on fifth place. In the five-kilometre race on Feb. 26, the three medallists were 15 seconds apart. Hess was two and a half minutes away from bronze with the same approximate separation between himself and fifth place.
"I messed up the pacing a little bit, but that's what being a young skier is about. I'll just work on it," he said. "I should have gone a little harder in both of them. I underestimated my endurance.
"(In the future), I'll change up my race plans and go a little bit harder. I'll maybe not add more strength, but add more repetitions more race, up my stroke rate a little bit and see how my body handles that."
Hess found himself up against some extremely experienced competitors, as the para-Nordic races didn't have the same age restrictions as several of the other Games offerings. Zaplotinsky is 29 while Quebec's Yves Bourque, who won both longer-distance races, is 49. Hess credited the opposition for creating a strong competitive atmosphere.
"There were 10 of us, and there were five of us there who were very, very good," he said. "The other guys are just coming up and they'll be very good in a few years, but there were five skiers there that were very high-level skiers.
"The competition, they've just been doing it for a long time, so their fitness level and their technique is very good."
Leading up to the Games, Hess' biggest event was the U.S. Paralympics Sitting Nationals & IPC NorAm in Midway, Utah, where he finished ninth in the three events. The distances were 850m, five kilometres and 15 kilometres.
"After the 5K race, I should have analyzed it a little bit better," he said. "That's something I'll be doing now is analyzing all my races."
Hess is getting set to attend the Haywood 2015 Ski Nationals in Thunder Bay, Ont. from March 14 to 21, though he noted the level of competition will likely end up paling in comparison to Canada Winter Games. Still, he feels it'll be worthwhile to get in some reps and to measure himself against the competitors who do attend.
"There's not going to be a massive amount of people there," he said. "I'm just going to go for the experience.
"It's just going to be a training race for me."Snowboarder proud of fourth-place finish
Jacquie Monette-Warren finished just off the podium in her Canada Winter Games event, but she was still proud of her performance.
The 17-year-old snowboarder drastically improved her slopestyle score from the qualifier to the final, starting from a score of 52.10 before rising to a tally of 66.90.
"My goal was top five and placing fourth is especially a huge accomplishment for me. I'm pretty proud," she said. "I landed my planned run and I enjoyed the conditions. It was really fun."
Monette-Warren entered the event knowing competition would be tough. Quebec's Océane Fillion ran away with the gold medal by 7.5 points.
"I was definitely expecting some strong riders from Quebec," she said. "The competition was good and I stomped my run."
She was proud of her fellow B.C. slopestyle athletes, as Agassiz's Quinten Fast emerged to take silver and North Vancouver's Adrian Tongko ended up fifth.
The provincial finals champion hadn't taken part in any competition similar in scope to the Canada Winter Games, and with a whirlwind of activity upon arrival, it was easy to get caught up in the excitement. However, she found some ground before her competition.
"At first, it was a little overwhelming. We had a charter flight and all the volunteers were really excited to see us and there was a lot going on," she said. "(But) we got used to it."
Monette-Warren is off to Big White as she seeks to repeat her provincial title this weekend, and she is also preparing for the 2015 SportChek Air Nation Freestyle Nationals at Whistler Blackcomb from March 25 to 29.Successful Games for BC
The first Canada Winter Games ended up being a striking success for the home province.
With a total of 88 medals, Team BC finished third in the medal standings behind Quebec (141) and Ontario (112). British Columbians also captured 22 gold medals.
In addition to Hess' bronze, Whistler-connected athletes won five other medals with freeskier Teal Harle scoring two gold, ski-cross racer Katie Fleckenstein also taking a gold and freeskier Sofiane Gagnon coming home with two bronze medals.
B.C. was also third in the flag points tally, a count giving all 20 sports equal weighting.
In a Government of British Columbia release on March 2, the provincial government noted it spent $12.8 million on the event, which was expected to generate between $70 and $90 million in economic activity. In all, 3,400 athletes and staff from across the country attended, and an estimated 15,000 visitors came to the region.
The 2017 Canada Summer Games will take place in Winnipeg while Red Deer, Alta. will host the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
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