Athletes compete at Kelowna event aimed at identifying future Olympians

Athletes take part in athletic testing at an RBC Training Ground event at UBC Okanagan. Bryon McLuckie / Global News

Dozens of young athletes gathered at UBC Okanagan on Sunday to compete in a series of events designed to test their athletic abilities.

They were there to see how they stack up against other athletes, and if they might have the potential to represent Canada.

The Kelowna event is part of the RBC Training Ground program. It aims to identify young Canadians who have the potential to reach the highest levels of sport.

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The Training Ground program travels across the country putting athletes through their paces in tests of endurance, speed, and strength.

“We are able to take these scores that these athletes do today and match them up against benchmarks. That information is passed on to our nine partner sports that are involved in RBC [Training Ground]. If anyone gets close to the scores that we are looking for, the sports will then connect with them and try to bring them into their programs,” explained Andrew Latham, who works for Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, which helps run the RBC Training Ground program.
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The testing can act as a bridge between young athletes and lesser-known sports. It can help identify athletes who might excel at a particular discipline even if they’ve never competed in that sport.

“Kids may be in the right sport. But they may not be in the right sport and part of this program is to try to find what might be a better fit for them,” Latham said.

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Among those looking for athletes who show potential, was Wes Hammer of Canoe Kayak BC whose sport requires good aerobic capacity and strength.

Hammer said the Training Ground program is a good way to direct athletes competing in more high-profile sports to other sports where they have more potential.

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“We are really trying to redirect athletes who have maybe started in a different sport such as swimming or even hockey, who won’t make the Olympics or high levels in those sports but they could in our sport,” Hammer said.

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Latham said five athletes who went through the RBC Training Ground program competed at the Beijing Olympics and three won medals.

Track athlete Avery Willis said the testing also helped with her personal training.

“I think it is a great opportunity to kind of get a feel of where my skill set is at the moment and look at what I need to train and work on in the future,” Willis said.

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Others were there looking for athletic direction.

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Bradley Spurge recently wrapped up a college volleyball career and was at the event looking for new challenges.

“Myself, I came here really looking for the jump test and the sprint test and hoping that those can take me in a direction because…I just finished my years at the college, so that career is done, but I don’t think my body is done. So hopefully these results go out to a few of the coaches and maybe I get chatting with them to see if we can go somewhere,” Spurge said.

“I am so open to jumping into anything if they tell me I’m going to fit in there. I sure know I’m going to give it my all and hope I can prove them right.”

Spurge said when he was a kid he searched online for “How to be in the Olympics” and still dreams of representing Canada.

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