Braydon Luscombe of Duncan competes in the World Cup final downhill event in Kimberley last month. (Photo by Roger Witney/Alpine Canada)

Olympic dreams well worth pursuing for our youth

You never know who the next great athletes are going to be

Let the dreams begin!

The great thing about this being an Olympic year is it inspires our youth to think big and launch their own plan of action about how far they want to take their athletics. Everyone has to start somewhere and the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea will provide those images for some of our most dedicated young people to work harder and strive for the highest possible goals.

And, remember, the athletes winning gold medals at the Olympics are getting younger all the time so it’s not like this is something our current teenagers will have to wait eight to 10 or more years to attain. The process can begin to happen now.

Alina Zagitova of Russia is a prime example. She’s only 15 years old and, yet, there she was standing atop the podium at the ultimate sporting event of all following the women’s singles figure skating competition. Being a fearless youth goes a long way.

Canada is performing very well on the international stage right now with our highest overall medal total ever in Pyeongchang and representation on our Olympic teams of late has truly been covering communities from coast to coast.

There’s no reason why someone from the Cowichan and Chemainus Valleys can’t soon be riding to the top during the next Olympics or any of the others after that.

It simply takes the right individual with the right expertise or knack for a certain sport and a whole set of other circumstances falling into place to make it.

It’s not like we haven’t produced Olympic athletes before, more in the Summer than the Winter sports, but the opportunity is always there.

Braydon Luscombe from nearby Duncan is at the Paralympics now. He’s worked hard over the years to get there, but he’s proof you can be from anywhere – including our neck of the woods – and reach the pinnacle.

Tanya Clarke of Youbou was someone I interviewed many times on her rise to fame in ski ballet, a sport that is no longer held in the Olympics. Clarke-Young (married name), who’s now a chiropractor in Duncan, realized the fruits of her labour by competing at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.

More Olympic athletes could be sitting in our midst and we don’t even know it. Maybe they don’t even know it.

When you talk to young athletes who are doing well in their chosen sports and someone asks them about their future ambitions, the ‘Olympics’ are invariably the first thing they mention.

When you look back on it, the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver played a huge role in our athlete development.

We suddenly emerged as one of the leading teams in the medal standings (even ahead of the United States, this time!) and the best is seemingly yet to come.

Those who complain about the money spent on training athletes as being a waste should just take a look around. Our national pride, in many ways, has never been stronger.

The greatest opportunity for young athletes today probably lies in the ‘daredevil’ style sports – the halfpipe, ski cross racing type of events. Young people just love this stuff that crossed over from the X Games to the Olympics because it’s high energy and so exciting – right up their alley.

For those with the ability who just happen to be dedicated enough to travel frequently to Mount Washington, this is ideal. Cassie Sharpe of Comox staked her claim on the mountain before winning the women’s halfpipe gold in Pyeongchang.

She’s like a kid in a candy store, just enjoying the sport, and it comes so naturally she almost doesn’t realize how we view her amazing talents.

So we definitely need to keep encouraging our young athletes to reach their full potential and it might even land them a spot in the Olympics one day. For those who don’t make it, which will obviously be almost all, that’s OK. There are other goals to reach on so many levels and they will become better persons for the experience.

Don Bodger is the editor of the Chemainus Valley Courier.

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