Coaching can take it out of you — body, mind and soul.
“I felt I needed more energy than the athletes,” said former track coach Wynn Gmitroski of Victoria.
That level of uncompromising commitment led to induction in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame with the Class of 2023 that was enshrined Thursday night at the Vancouver Conference Centre.
Gmitroski and former Victoria tennis player Susan Butt joined the numerous former Island sporting greats — from Lester Patrick and Doug Peden to Simon Whitfield, Silken Laumann, Steve Nash, Angela Chalmers and the Gait twins — in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s great to be able to look back now without the pressure and intensity,” said Gmitroski, 65, who has retired after coaching athletes to six Olympics, six Commonwealth Games and 12 world championships.
Gmitroski, with Brent Fougner, guided the golden generation of Island runners that included Olympic medallist Chalmers, world championship medallist and Olympian Gary Reed and Olympian Diane Cummins.
“We had some great years. But with the post-pandemic challenges in sports, I don’t know if I could do it now,” said Gmitroski.
Butt was unable to attend the induction ceremony but her career was well noted. She played on the fabled grass courts and made it to the third round of Wimbledon in 1961, and captained Canada’s Federation Cup team three times in four appearances between 1967 and 1972. Butt was the national women’s singles champion in 1960, 1961 and 1967 and six-time B.C. champion.
Also inducted with the Class of 2023 was former defenceman Dennis Kearns, who spent his entire 10-season NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks; Super Bowl champion, 14-season NFL kicker/punter and two-time Pro Bowl selection Mitch Berger of Delta; Winter Olympics ski-cross gold and silver medallist Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna; former national team softball star and Pan Am Games medallist Mary-Anne Walz of Port Coquitlam; basketball Olympian Deb Huband of Vancouver; three-time Paralympics wheelchair basketball gold medallist Jaimie Borisoff of New Westminster; and Paralympics multi-medallist swimmer and former president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee Carla Qualtrough, now Delta MP and cabinet member as federal minister of employment.
Dr. Brian Day was inducted for sports medicine and former radio Sportstalk host Dan Russell in the media category.
The 1971 Tasker brothers-led Minto Cup national Junior A lacrosse champion Richmond Roadrunners and Troy Stecher-led 2012 RBC Cup national Junior A hockey champion Penticton Vees were enshrined in the team category.
They joined the 442 individuals and 67 teams previously inducted in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame at B.C. Place.