For an Island far better known historically for its Summer Olympics performances, the podium has also rather surprisingly been in play in recent Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
That is attested by the hockey gold medals won by Victoria players Jamie Benn and Micah Zandee-Hart at Sochi 2014 and Beijing 2022, respectively, Comox freestyle skier Cassie Sharpe’s half-pipe gold and silver medals from Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022 and Campbell River snowboard Paralympian Tyler Turner’s gold and bronze medals at Beijing 2022.
Also at one or more of the last three Winter Olympics and Paralympics out of Mount Washington have been freestyle snowboarders Darcy Sharpe of Comox and Spencer O’Brien of Courtenay, freestyle skier Teal Harle of Campbell River, Carle Brenneman of Comox in snowboard cross and Paralympian skiers Mel Pemble of Victoria and Braydon Luscombe of Duncan.
Looking to add to that list is Amelia Wells of Victoria, the first cross-country skier from the Island to compete in the FIS World Cup. She is doing so this 2023-24 season with the seven-member Canadian team, of which she is one of the two females.
“It’s hard to believe that this is real. It has always been my dream to compete at the World Cup,” Wells said in a statement.
“I am really excited for this amazing opportunity to represent my country on the world stage. I am looking forward to learning from the best.”
While a student at Reynolds Secondary and the Canadian Sports School-Victoria at PISE, Wells took part in the more traditional Victoria pursuits of rowing, rugby and cycling. The family would also make regular trips to Mount Washington since Wells was two years old and it’s the snow that stuck with her more than the water, pitch or pavement pursuits. It’s a family affair as mom Katherine Brandt is also a member of the Strathcona Nordic Ski Club.
“This has not been easy for Amelia,” said Brandt.
“The No. 1 obstacle for her was that there is no skiing in Victoria. So ever since she was a baby, we would go to Mount Washington. When she reached a certain level, she would travel up-Island mid-week because she had so much else going on in Victoria on weekends [either rowing, cycling or playing rugby].”
Now she has progressed to be racing in all the iconic World Cup cross-country venues this season, beginning Friday with the first of 10 events, at places such as Ruka in Finland, Gällivare and Östersund in Sweden and Trondheim in Norway. These are the Super Bowls of Nordic sport.
Wells, 21, had to move to a national centre to fulfill her snow-sport ambitions and trains with the Alpine Insurance Alberta World Cup Academy while attending the University of Calgary as a full-time fourth-year student in health sciences.
“There are not many cross-country ski athletes in Canada who are competing at the same high-performance level while balancing full-time university,” Wells said.
“I aspire to be a role model for other female athletes in Canada, showing them that it is possible to be a full-time student and high-performance athlete.”
And a high-performance athlete with a goal no different than those out of Mount Washington before her such as the Sharpes, Harle, O’Brien, Brenneman, and going further back, skiers Allison Forsyth and Tanya Clarke.
“The Olympics are on Amelia’s list of goals,” said proud mom Brandt.