Whistler athletes, coaches gear up for B.C. Games 

Warm reception planned for local athletes

Whistler is sending one of its largest contingents ever to the B.C. Games in Port Alberni next week, with 14 athletes, three coaches, two officials and one chaperone taking part.

The B.C. Winter Games include 23 sports for boys and girls, from age 12 to 15, who will be representing their competitive zones. Whistler is in Zone 5, along with athletes from Vancouver and Squamish.

The opening ceremonies take place on Thursday, Feb. 26 and the events run until the closing ceremonies on Sunday, Feb. 29 at 1:30 p.m.

Whistler athletes will be competing in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, gymnastics and the Street Sprints, a new sport added this year to groom young athletes for bobsled, luge and skeleton sliding events.

From alpine skiing, Whistler will be represented by Nancy Bayley, Brynne Benbow, Madison McLeish, Ian Morrison and Maddi Podborski. Sarah Hornes will chaperone the team.

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club as a whole will be well-represented at the Games with Alex Binks, Mike Cadman, Isaac Penn, Ryan Ptolomey, Kyle Oser, Lindsay Jones, Heidi Mah and Katie Self taking part.

The skiing competition is limited to K1 level skiers (ages 12 to 13).

In cross-country skiing, 13-year-old Nadine Crowe is the lone athlete representing Whistler, although she will be accompanied to the Games by coach Jeanette Callahan.

A pair of Whistler figure skaters, 12-year-old Denise Begg-Smith and 14-year-old CJ (Caleigh) Derpak also qualified for the Games. Derpak was also recently named to the B.C. Development Team.

Frances Moody,11, and Niki Sadler,12 will be representing the Whistler Gymnastics Club after qualifying to represent their zone at a meet on Jan. 18. According to coaches, both athletes will be competing at a higher level than they were training for at the beginning of the season, and have been working hard to learn new skills. They will also be competing against gymnasts with full-time facilities that train about 20 hours a week.

Whistler coach Tami Ross will be going to the Games to coach Frances and Niki, and the other athletes in Zone 5.

Four boys from Whistler will also be competing in the Street Sprint after a 30-metre sprint contest was held at Whistler Secondary. Although there’s no luge track to compete on, boys and girls from each zone will push 250 pound (113 kg) two-person carts 30 metres before jumping on board to glide to the finish line.

Engineers from Whistler Mountain built the carts to simulate actual two-person bobsleds.

"What we are hoping to do is to give the sport a little more exposure, showing some of the kids what it’s like to be in a multi-game event, and we will hopefully be able send some of the kids on to do an actual bobsled training camp," said Todd Allison, the manager of the Telus Whistler Sports Centre. Allison is also one of two Street Sprint officials from Whistler heading to the B.C. Winter Games. Sarah Cormode is the other Street Sprint official.

According to Allison, the B.C. Winter Games organizers hope to showcase more Olympics sports at the next event in 2006, including ski jumping and Nordic combined, to bring in more athletes in preparation for 2010.

Local freestyle coach Myles Ricketts will also be going to the Games. Although none of our local mogul skiers or aerialists will be competing, the Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club will be sending a few athletes along – Keltie Hicks, Emily Higgins, Devon Krainer and Zack Glanzberg.

These athletes have been excellent in the B.C. Freestyle Ski Association’s provincial competitions, and according to Blackcomb Freestyle head coach Marc McDonell the mogul skiers and aerialists have been successfully pre-qualifying inverted jumps for use in competition.

The celebrate the achievements of our Whistler athletes, a reception will be held for returning parents, coaches and athletes on Monday, March 6 at 6 p.m. at Millennium Place.

Parents are also hoping to hold an assembly with the athletes for the elementary school students shortly after the Games.

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