Training Ground event brings Olympic hopefuls from around the province to Regina
Regina’s session is the 1st of 3 rounds of testing athletes go through in RBC-sponsored program
Young athletes from around Saskatchewan descended on the Queen City on Saturday, many hoping to pursue their Olympic dreams.
For the second year in a row, the Training Ground program, which aims to help identify potential Olympians and fund them during their training, came to Saskatchewan.
According to Natasha Fox, a wrestler from Saskatoon, the Royal Bank of Canada-sponsored program helps younger athletes identify strengths they might not know they have — and potentially embark on a path towards the Olympic games.
"Sometimes, people who live in smaller centres, it's easy to sort of slip through the cracks," Fox said.
She said RBC is helping to fill in gaps in sports by providing an opportunity for young athletes to access some resources their counterparts in bigger centres get.
Fox said she has her own Olympic goals — she's aiming to compete in either the 2020 or 2024 games. Now, she says the Training Ground program is helping her achieve those dreams by providing her with a job as an ambassador that allows her to focus on that goal.
"When I was in Grade 6, I got a birthday present and it said 'write down a hope, a dream and a wish,' and you put it in a little box and you keep it forever," she said, adding she had written down she wanted to go to the Olympics as a personal dream.
She said she forgot about the present, and rediscovered it at age 23.
This year, she placed second at national championships in March, qualifying her as a world team alternate in wrestling.
Fox is now working toward Olympic trials in December, which could see her earn a spot as a hopeful for Canada's Olympic wrestling team.
Winter, summer sports well represented
The Training Ground program travels across Canada, hosting qualifying events in different cities.
Regina's Training Ground session is the first of three rounds of testing for the RBC-sponsored athletes.
Eight sporting organizations choose athletes to attend a second phase of sport-specific testing in the summer, before the list is narrowed down to 100 youths. Those 100 are then invited to the Training Ground national final in Calgary in September.
Up to 30 of those participants are then selected as RBC Future Olympians, earning their national sporting organization financial assistance.
A wide range of athletic prowess was displayed at the Field House in Regina Saturday from a diverse group of young people, ranging in age from 14 to 25.
Hockey, speed skating, track and field, football and softball were just some of the sports that were represented.
Participants warmed up before tests that included measuring their vertical jump, participating in 40-metre sprints, and concluding with a "beep test" — a 20-metre shuttle run.
Track and field athlete and hockey player Brett Bowler, 17, was among the first group of athletes to be assessed.
He said he attended the session as a way to gauge his current athletic ability while also trying to impress some of the coaches present.
"I've seen this a couple of times on social media and on the internet, and I thought it was a good experience, or a good opportunity," Bowler said.
He said the idea of participating in the Olympic Games came to him when he was watching the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. He figured if he worked hard enough he could one day get there.
Track season is just around the corner, Bowler said, and he's aiming to do as well as he can to make it back to provincials this season.
Erica Rieder, a 22-year-old hockey player, said she hoped to catch the eye of coaches in any sport, though she said she'd like to do some more hockey-related activities in the next year.
"The Olympics has been my dream since I was little," Rieder said.
"I think making the Olympic team for hockey isn't necessarily in the books anymore for me, but if I can maybe get on a different Olympic team, that would be the dream for sure."
Rieder said she's interested in bobsleigh, cycling or rugby, but she'd be happy to help Team Canada in any way she can.