British Columbia

B.C. strives to train more homegrown Olympians

Sports organizations in B.C. are trying to keep the legacy of Vancouver's 2010 Winter Olympic Games alive by investing more in its young athletes.

A legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver is greater investment in young athletes

A team of grade 12 girls work on their volleyball skills through a special program at the Richmond Olympic Oval. (CBC)

Sports organizations in B.C. are trying to keep the legacy of Vancouver's 2010 Winter Olympic Games alive by investing more in its young athletes.

"We start working with kids as young as three teaching physical literacy and we work with athletes right through to Olympians," said Andrew Clark, manager of fitness and high-performance training at the Richmond Olympic Oval. 

With the exception of Norway, Canada has so far won more medals at this year's Games in Sochi, Russia, than any other country. Most Canadian Olympians owning the podium are from Quebec, which has been investing in high-performance sports since the 1976 Games in Montreal.

Now B.C. is playing catch up.

Four years ago, just before the 2010 Games began, the IGNITE Athlete Development program was introduced across the province to help athletes 14 to 17 years of age develop their fitness, skills and performance. 

Experts say programs like IGNITE enable elite athletes achieve their full potential.

10,000 hours needed for success

Beathen Thomas coaches a group of grade 12 girls in volleyball at the Richmond Virtual School, which offers students in-person and online high school courses while allowing them more time to pursue extra-curricular activities like sports.

"We are trying to support elite athlete development by giving them the opportunity to take training like this and count it towards their school credits," said Thomas.

The girls train in small groups two or three times per week to work on their technical skills and strength training. He says the program helps them get the 10,000 hours of training that elite athletes need to progress to the next level.

"If these athletes aren't together, if they're not training in a purposeful, intense manner, if they're not working with coaches who are at an elite level, they're not going to get better and we're not going to see team success." 

As of Feb. 11, figure skater Kevin Reynolds is the only athlete from B.C. to medal in this year's Winter Games. Athletes, coaches and parents hope that will change in the future.

With files from CBC's Meera Bains