Ben Churchill chosen as Canadian flag bearer for Youth Olympics
Biathlete will lead team into opening ceremony in Lillehammer
Seventeen-year-old biathlete Ben Churchill will be Canada's flag-bearer at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, it was announced Monday.
The Calgary native will lead 54 Canadian athletes into the opening ceremony, which will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca, along with two daily update shows.
"I'm absolutely thrilled," Churchill told CBC Sports. "I wasn't expecting to be selected, so to be [chosen] is a very, very cool experience.
"To me it means joining a long line of accomplished Canadian athletes and sports people."
It could get loud
Lillehammer will host 1,100 of the world's best young winter athletes from 70 nations.
From Feb. 12-21, athletes age 15 to 18 will compete in 70 medal events. There will also be cultural and educational activities to help develop skills for the young athletes' future careers.
The Youth Games will be Churchill's first time at an international event, as will be the case for a lot of athletes attending. Churchill anticipates a different level of competition as well as a little more noise than he's used to in Canada.
"I've never been [to Norway] before, but apparently between each shot [in the biathlon events] the crowd just roars if you hit, they sigh if you miss," said Churchill.
"It will be a very good experience to hopefully have a big, loud, distracting crowd to kind of have a bit of a baptism by fire in international competition."
Churchill trains for biathlon every day of the week — four times with his club, and every day at home. He is getting to the point where he'll have to make some tough decisions about his future. Not only is he heavily invested in biathlon, but the high school senior has dreams of pursuing a neuroscience degree.
But with the opportunity to compete at the Youth Games, and biathlon continuing to gain ground in Canada, Churchill's Olympic dreams are becoming a bit more tangible.
"I think it's not possible to do full-time biathlon and full-time post-secondary education simultaneously," said Churchill. "The Olympics are still a dream, but with the qualifications at the 2016 Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, they certainly do seem a little less ethereal and esoteric.
"They do seem a little bit clearer now."