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Search for potential Olympians returns to UVic

RBC Traning Ground program goes Saturday at CARSA gym
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Tokyo 2020 Gold Medalist and RBC Training Ground alumni Avalon Wasteneys will be lending a helping hand on Saturday at CARSA gym. JAMES PARK PHOTO

CLEVE DHEENSAW

Times Colonist

Avalon Wasteneys of Campbell River was a cross-country skier on Mount Washington without an inkling that she might be better off as a rower at the University of Victoria for the Vikes. Kelsey Mitchell was a University of Alberta Golden Bears soccer player and never thought of cycling beyond a recreational Sunday ride in spring. Both ended up as gold medallists atop the podium in the 2000 Tokyo Olympics in their adopted sports, to which they were re-directed by the RBC Training Ground program.

The program has also ­uncovered and placed on a potential Olympic path young people who were not even previously registered in organized sports.

The athletic talent hunt scours the country to uncover hidden talents or re-direct current athletes into other sports better fitting their body metrics. In its ninth year, the program has discovered and funded 13 Olympians and seven Canadian Olympic medallists over the last two Games. Eight graduates of the program competed for Canada in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and five in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

“Seven Olympic medals in the last two Games is proof it’s working,” said former track sprinter Sam Effah, marketing manager for the program, and who sprinted for Canada in two Commonwealth Games and three world track and field championships.

Wasteneys will be among those on hand Saturday for this year’s Island Training Ground try-outs at the CARSA gym on the University of Victoria campus Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is free and anyone from ages 14-25 interested in trying out is welcome. Registration is at RBCTrainingground.ca. Walk-ups will also be accepted on the day. Joining Wasteneys in putting the hopefuls through their paces at CARSA will be fellow Paris-Olympics bound rower Alexis Cronk and Tokyo Paralympics gold-medallist middle-distance runner Nate Riech.

Registrants will get to display their core strength, power, speed and endurance to scouts from 11 national sporting federations. Scouts will be there from Rugby Canada, Rowing Canada, ­Bobsleigh Canada, Skeleton Canada, Canoe Kayak Canada, Climbing Canada, Cycling Canada, Wrestling Canada, Freestyle Canada, Luge Canada, Speed Skating Canada and Volleyball Canada. They will be joined from scouts from Squash ­Canada and Flag Football Canada, two sports making their Olympic debuts at Los Angeles in 2028.

“Give it a try. You don’t what is going to happen,” said Effah.

“We’ve had 14,000 ­Canadian tryout over nine years and 1,600 have been directed or re-directed to a sport at the national level.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com