Nfld. & Labrador

Dreams of gold: Olympic hopefuls gather in St. John's for RBC Training Ground

The RBC Training Ground hosted a regional qualifying event in St. John's on Saturday for athletes to test their limits and see if they have what it to takes to compete on the international stage.

Select athletes will head to Halifax in June for finals

Athletes between the ages of 14 and 25 attended the qualifying round in St. John's, where they got pointers from Olympian Luke Demetre. (Anna Delaney/CBC)

Young athletes in St. John's were given the opportunity of a lifetime Saturday at the RBC Training Ground.

The regional qualifying event, for athletes aged 14 -25, is one of several across the country. It consisted of a series of workouts to see who has the greatest potential for national and international competition. 

"I think every serious athlete has dreams of being in the Olympics, or being in some sort of national or international level of competition," said Harshal Deshpande, 18.

Deshpande is a student at Memorial University studying business administration. He is on the Seahawks' track and field team and is currently training for the 2017 Canada Games.

Not only could athletes like Deshpande test their own limits against at the training camp, they also got advice and critiques from an Olympic athlete.

Luke Demetre was on the national bobsleigh team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He said he got his start at training camps similar to the RBC Training Ground. 

"I always love coming out to these things and seeing all the young athletes compete and put it all on the line to get that next shot at the Olympics," he said.

"The guys and the girls out here have done absolutely awesome. It's been a pretty incredible day. It's awesome to see all the participants come out from all [over] Newfoundland and see what the rock has to offer."

Advancing to finals

In about a week, Deshpande — who has been running since he was four years old — will get an email with his performance evaluation.  After that, he'll get an invitation if he makes it to the finals, he said.

Results from the camps are measured against performance benchmarks to help identify athletes who show the greatest potential for certain sports.

The workouts focused on four key areas. Speed was tested with a 40-metre sprint, and strength was measured with an isometric mid-thigh pull. A vertical jump showcased an athlete's power and a beep test was used to calculate endurance.

Demetre said one of the advantages of training camps is you can see where you rank among other athletes across the country.

"It's so cool. I've always loved this stuff. You can actually see your number and where you're actually at," he said.

"It's exactly what you always wanted to do when you're a kid. You always want to race the fastest kid in the yard. so this way you get to do it." 

From each qualifier, like the one in St. John's, participants will be chosen to attend the regional finals. On June 10 in Halifax, up to 100 athletes will perform in front of national and provincial sport organization officials.

The top performers from each regional final will get a grand prize trip to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.

While the trip is a dream come true for any Olympic hopeful, it's the sport itself that motivates Deshpande.

"What I really like about athletics in general is anyone can do it. People think that they're unathletic and things like that, but if you just put in the hard work and put in the hours and really become determined you can do anything you want," Deshpande said.

"There's nothing that's impossible. There really isn't."