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Sanoa Dempfle-Olin steps out from her sister's surfing shadow in Tofino

Youngest sibling off to Pan Am Games
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Tofino’s Sanoa Olin shows off her copper medal for a fourth-place finish at the Pan American Surfing Games in Santa Catalina, Panama, last April. The result earned Olin a berth at the Pan American Games. DOM DOMIC, SURF CANADA

There could be another ­Dempfle-Olin from Tofino on the podium at the Pan Am Games this month in South America. But this time it won’t be Mathea Dempfle-Olin, bronze medallist at the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games, but her sister.

Sanoa Dempfle-Olin, 18, made the Canadian team for the 2023 Santiago Pan Am Games, announced Wednesday, while Mathea, 20, failed to qualify but will be there in spirit for her younger sibling.

“My older sister pushed me and was an inspiration and ­mentor my whole life,” Sanoa told the Times Colonist, from Tofino.

“She set a bar for me to reach for. And I’ve kept her on her toes and pushed her as well. There are going to be a lot of competitions we are both at together.”

Perhaps even the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“I’m excited to be to going to Chile. These Games are a big event in the Americas and an opportunity to qualify for the Olympics,” said Sanoa.

She has returned from Teahupo’o, Tahiti, where Sanoa and Mathea both competed in the Paris Olympics test event last month on the legendary waves known as the Wall of Skulls.

Dom Domic, executive director of Victoria-based Surf Canada, said the Games selection is a breakthrough for Sanoa: “It’s the classic younger-sibling dynamic in sports families. Sanoa was in the shadow of her older sister but pushing from behind with something to prove and now has burst out.”

Also named to the 2023 Pan Am Games team is veteran ­Catherine Temple of Tofino, who at 47, is at the other end of the age scale from the Dempfle-Olin sisters.

“I’ve known Catherine my whole life and looked up to her,” said Sanoa.

“We are super close and it will be so exciting being at the Games together.”

The selections are another triumph for Canada’s spiritual and physical surf capital, which is located on the Island.

“Tofino is the only place in the country where you can surf every day all year-round,” noted Sanoa Dempfle-Olin.

The Canadian team to ­ ­Santiago was chosen by results at the 2023 Pan American ­Surfing Games that took place in April at Santa Catalina, Panama. Also making the Canadian team are Michael Darbyshire of North Vancouver, Lina Augaitis of Coldstream, Liv Stokes of Aliso Viejo, California, and Hawaii-based Cody Young and Finn Spencer. The coach is Shannon Brown of Tofino and the team manager is Domic from Victoria.

The Santiago Pan Am Games run Oct. 20 to Nov. 5. Surfing will take place Oct. 24-30 in Punta de Lobos, Pichilemu.

“Because our sport needs ocean access, we’ll be a little outside the main village, but I know the Games spirit will shine through,” said Sanoa Dempfle-Olin.

Sanoa Dempfle-Olin and ­Temple join the more than 60 Island or Island-based athletes who will compete for Canada in the 2023 Santiago Pan Am Games. Mathea Dempfle-Olin was among the Island athletes who won 17 medals in the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com