CBC Sports

Amateur sportsSports Day: Sports and the family

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 | 11:43 AM

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Vancouver's Emily Zurrer of soccer fame shows off her newly minted Olympic bronze medal at the BC Sports Hall of Fame. Vancouver's Emily Zurrer of soccer fame shows off her newly minted Olympic bronze medal at the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

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There is a comfortable feeling in a hall of fame which reflects pride, but also an aura that implies there's a lot to live up to. So it is at the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Ever notice how a sports hall of fame is much like a family homestead?

Adorning the walls are the images of all the relatives ... the pioneering generations ... the achievers of the clan. There are precious artifacts displayed in glass cases and the youngsters marvel at the deeds of the elders.

There's a comfortable feeling in a hall of fame which reflects pride but also an aura that implies there's a lot to live up to. So it is at the BC Sports Hall of Fame in BC Place Stadium, where the football Lions and soccer Whitecaps play.

300-bc-hof.jpg"Honouring the Past. Inspiring the Future."

That's the simple but ambitious mission of this province's hallowed clubhouse of sport.

"It's all about the stories," said newly inducted Andrea Neil, one of Canada's most renowned soccer players. 

Neil was a national team stalwart who starred in countless World Cup matches and occupied a central role in Canada's trailblazing efforts on the international stage.

"We hear the stories of the modern athletes in the media age," she figured. "But so many great things happened in the past. It's worthwhile remembering those things, too."

In other words, it's good to know your family history.

What an appropriate backdrop to the beginning of our Sports Day in Canada road trip -- sport and family celebrated in a place where the barriers of time prove to be no barriers at all, as many generations of kids gather to understand how sport can bind Canadians together.

300-bc-wright.jpgIn attendance was Thelma Wright, who ran middle distances at the Munich and Montreal Olympics in 1972 and 1976, respectively. Wright conducted a run, jump and throw contest with students from a class at a school in Tsawwassen. Her daughter, Gillian, is the teacher. Helping out was son Philip, a member of the national men's field hockey team. His brother, Anthony, played field hockey at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and his father, Lee, competed in the 1964 Tokyo and 1976 Montreal Games. And oh yes, the family patriarch, Harold Wright, was a sprinter at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

"Sport drives us," Thelma said of her family. "It made me who I am.

"It made our kids want to go to school. Sport is a way of connecting with our children. I think there is a sport for everybody."

Indeed, at the BC Sports Hall of Fame, so many families were represented on the opening day of our tour. Brent Hayden, the Olympic swimmer and his new wife, Nadina, were on hand to meet with the youngsters and share the bronze medal he won just last month in London.

Emily Zurrer, the soccer defender and part of that bronze-medal Olympic breakthrough this summer, was, in turn, idolized by the students and spent some time marvelling at and conversing with Neil, who was one of her own role models as an aspiring player.

300-bc-girard.jpgPerhaps the most intriguing of the participants on this day was weightlifter Christine Girard. She arrived on her own from her home in White Rock, B.C., and spent more than a few moments alone gazing at the treasures contained in the impressive glass cases.

"I've never been here before and I think it's just amazing," she smiled.

Girard, the first Canadian to stand on the podium in women's weightlifting in Olympic history, had her bronze medal dangling from her neck and became like a magnet to the kids as they engaged in the fun and games. They were eager to touch it and hear the tale of how she came to own it. 

Girard hasn't been in British Columbia that long, having learned sport in her native Rouyn-Noranda, Que. She moved here to be with her husband, Walter Bailey, an RCMP officer who she met at a competition when both were junior weightlifters.

300-bc-games.jpgSince arriving in the province a few years ago, Girard has coached herself out of a makeshift gymnasium fashioned in her garage and she's decided to take a leave of absence from her job as a high-school, math-and-science teacher in order to continue her training.

In a sense, Girard is forging different family ties in her adopted home and, on this day, she made a lot of new friends and won a legion of admirers because of her success at the Olympics -- but also because of her connection to sport in general.

"It's really quite a story," Girard laughed.

And so it is. The BC Sports Hall of Fame. It turns out it's much more than a shrine or a museum where curiosities of days gone by idly gather dust.

Instead, it's a living place where the province's extended family of sport continues to find common ground under a single roof.

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