Island athletes have B.C. out front at Western Canada Summer Games

The first-week B.C. athletes have passed the baton to the second week’s with a substantial lead in the medals table heading into the anchor leg at the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games in Wood Buffalo, Alta.

B.C. hit the halfway point topping the standings. As of Thursday afternoon, B.C. had 170 total, of which 78 were gold in Wood Buffalo, which the regional district that includes Fort McMurray. The host Albertans were on 141 medals, Saskatchewan 103, Manitoba 102, Yukon two and Northwest Territories and Nunavut with none.

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“I will take this experience with me for the rest of my career. It’s a big stepping stone,” said Erin Attwell of Victoria, who won two gold medals in road cycling.

Other Island gold-medal highlights in the first week of the Games included the track and field double in the 400 metres and 4x400 by Andrew deGroot of Nanaimo, Ben Weir and Sam Willett of Victoria in the 5,000 metres and hammer throw, respectively, Aaron Badovinac of Port Alberni in wrestling, Darby McIntyre of Salt Spring Island in gymnastics and those won in judo by Alicia Fiandor of Nanaimo and Anthony Henry and Kelsey Painter from Campbell River.

The Games have provided a pathway for Olympic medallists from B.C. such as swimmer Ryan Cochrane of Victoria, shot-putter Dylan Armstrong of Kamloops, soccer goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc of Maple Ridge and also two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash of Victoria. There were 51 B.C. team alumni from past Western Canada Summer Games competing in the recent 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games, including gold medallists Cochrane and javelin thrower Liz Gleadle.

It is the middle part of a multi-sport development cycle that starts with the B.C. Summer Games and concludes with the Canada Summer Games. For the elite performers, it leads to international events such as the Olympics and Pan Am and Commonwealth Games. That isn’t lost on Victoria’s Attwell, gold medallist in both the women’s road race and time trial in Wood Buffalo.

“This was my first multi-sport Games experience, and that’s incredibly important,” said the 16-year-old Maria Montessori Academy student, who switched from soccer to competitive cycling only last year with the Victoria Tripleshot Club.

“This might not be a big deal someday [if she makes it as a Canadian international], but it is a big deal right now.”

The multifaceted rider is also emerging as a talent on the velodrome in track cycling.

“I am very motivated and very competitive,” said Attwell of her rapidly rising fortunes on the pedals.

Attwell is part of the 427-member B.C. team that includes 334 athletes, 47 coaches, 24 managers and 22 mission staff, of whom 88 are from the Island.

The second-week sports in Wood Buffalo include baseball, soccer, softball, volleyball, rowing, golf, swimming, badminton and triathlon.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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