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Recruitment event identifies young Edmontonians with Olympic potential

WATCH ABOVE: More than 100 young athletes in the Edmonton area gathered Sunday to participate in the RBC Training Ground program. The initiative seeks to find promising future Olympians. Julia Wong reports.

Young Edmontonians got to showcase their raw talent on Sunday as part of an athletic scouting and recruitment initiative.

The program, called Training Ground, is a chance for national sports organizations to identify and develop budding athletes who could one day represent Canada on the Olympic stage.

The program has run in Canada for four years; this is its third year in Edmonton. The young athletes who participated Sunday ranged in age from 14 to 25 and rotated through different stations that tested their speed, power, strength and endurance.

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“They can come in, learn a little bit more about their athletic abilities and maybe what other sports could be a potential fit for them,” said Kurt Innes, technical lead for the Training Ground national program.

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Innes said the athletic data collected Sunday is shared with national sport organizations, such as Cycling Canada and Speed Skating Canada, who may then reach out to the young athletes. The odds were good that there was a future Olympian at the program, which was held at Edmonton’s Foote Field.

“I would say out of the 110 athletes we have here, maybe two, maybe three per cent [could be future Olympians],” Innes said.

‘More motivated than ever’

Fallon Dickie, 25, is hoping for a future in professional sports. The St. Albert woman has been an athlete her whole life and most recently played soccer for the University of Alberta.

Dickie said she was drawn to the Training Ground event for guidance.

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“As a former athlete and someone who doesn’t have much direction going for me athletically at the moment, I just figured I would try something new, see if I get any interest from national-level coaches,” she said.

“It’s so motivating. I’m going to be leaving here more motivated than ever to keep following my dream of becoming a pro athlete.”

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Dickie said she received good feedback during her testing and will continue to pursue athletic opportunities.

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“I’ve already just spoken with a coach with track cycling, so I might just try it out in the upcoming weeks and see if I like it first off. If I don’t, we’ll see if I can pursue some other opportunities,” she said.

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The participants did sprints to gauge their speed, were tested on their vertical jumps as well as their strength and participated in a shuttle-run test.

Anastasia Bucsis, a two-time Olympic speedskater, is an Olympian mentor for the program and said it is a way to focus on the next generation of athletes.

“They really look at your raw building blocks as to what makes a good athlete,” she said.

“This is just an opportunity for a bunch of kids to come in, show us their grit, show us where they’re at — weaknesses, strengths — and try to mould them into something that’s an elite athlete.”

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Young athletes who participated in the program will next be invited to sports-specific assessments, and some will be selected to compete at a national final in Calgary in May.

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