A cross-country search for new athletes to put into Canada’s Olympic talent pipeline has identified three young women from Edmonton as hopefuls.
RBC Training Ground, in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee, has extended invitations to the its national final to Emma Langstrom, a long distance runner and ringette star, Beatriz Herrara, a high school rugby and basketball player and NAIT ice hockey player Jenn Gaeckle.
The trio was selected out of a pool of nearly 2,000 athletes who participated in 30 different local training ground events this year. One-hundred were selected to head to Calgary to showcase their skills. Later, 30 of those athletes will be chosen as RBC “future Olympians” and will receive funding and resources to pursue their Olympic dreams.
For 17-year-old Emma Langstrom, she’s familiar with what to expect at Training Ground.
“I did RBC last year, and got picked up by Speed Skating Canada. I went to the final in Calgary last year. After that, I quit ringette and tried a year in speed skating. It was tough but it was fun and exciting,” Langstrom said.
But could Langstrom envision herself skating for Canada at a winter Olympic games?
“Some days I’m like, ‘Okay, I have a lot of work to do.’ Some days I feel more confident. I definitely have that [athletic] drive. I know where I want to be and I have a goal of what I want to do,” Langstrom said.
Beatriz Herrera, who plays for Alberta Rugby, sums up her playing style easily.
“I’m intense,” the 16-year-old laughed.
Herrera said she’s ready to do anything that allows her “to wear the maple leaf.”
“I started with soccer. That didn’t fit well for me. Then I started basketball, volleyball, swimming, a lot of other sports. But it wasn’t ’til 2016 in the middle of a season that I joined Strathcona Druids rugby. I fell in love with it, started training hard. I’m doing anything I can do to be good on the field,” Herrera said.
Jennifer Gaeckle, a recent NAIT graduate of the personal fitness training program, said when it comes to her playing style, she’s competitive, which can lead her to “be in the penalty box a lot.”
According to organizers, at local Training Ground events athletes perform “speed, power, strength and endurance benchmark tests in front of coaches and talent scouts from several National Sport Organizations including Rugby Canada, Cycling Canada, Rowing Canada and Speed Skating Canada.”
The sports then typically invite athletes they are interested in to do sport-specific testing before deciding who they’d like to see at the final.
“It’s pretty much a huge fitness test. We did the beep test, which is a whole bunch of levels of running. You start with a slow jog, then it gets faster and faster until you can’t run anymore. That’s when it ends,” Gaeckle said.
“I’m pretty competitive. I’m sure these ladies are too. I try to go as far as possible. I look around and say, ‘Keep going, one more level.'”
Raw talent seems to find a way to make an impression, as two of the athletes have been nominated by the governing bodies of sports they’ve never competed in. This year, Gaeckle was nominated for the final by scouts from Rugby Canada and Langstrom was nominated by Speed Skating Canada scouts the first time she did RBC Training Ground.
“I’ve always been interested in trying new sports. Being a part of this would be awesome,” Gaeckle said.
On Sept. 14, the athletes will complete these tests again in Calgary, but this time with funding and a spot on a national team program up for grabs.
LISTEN BELOW: Ryan Jespersen interview three Olympic hopefuls ahead of training camp
“It hasn’t really hit me yet. I don’t know what to expect. I haven’t thought of yet that I’m one of the 2,000,” Gaeckle said.
They’ll also have the chance to brush shoulders with some Olympic athletes like Patrick Chan, Justin Kripps and Penny Oleksiak.
“I’m excited to see who’s there and ask as many questions as I can ask, learn about all of their different experiences getting to the Games,” Herrera said. “I can’t wait.”
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