Sometimes, talent is just waiting to be discovered. While some of Canada’s Olympic heroes seem practically born to compete in a specific sport, many others don’t get a chance to try sports they may be able to excel at.
Last week representatives from the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific visited Belmont secondary to put students through a variety of athletic tests to see which sports they might be suited for.
“We’re just walking the kids through very basic field testing protocol that involves speed, power, strength and an endurance measure to get a sense of their overall athleticism,” explained Kurt Innes, a former Olympic track cyclist who is the Institute’s director of talent development.
Students were tested in sprints, distance running and jumping, with all of their times and distances tracked electronically.
Less than a year ago, Belmont student Sydney Belton was discovered in a similar manner and moved into the national rowing program.
“She tested really well and (Rowing Canada) invited her to try rowing,” Innes said. “That’s our bread and butter, helping athletes find different sports that they just wouldn’t have thought about.”
Belton said her first few months in the rowing program have been a positive experience, adding that she probably would have never taken up rowing otherwise.
In some sports, even athletes getting a later start can end up competing on the world stage. Innes used the example of Georgia Simmerling, a Canadian bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics in track cycling who previously competed in the Winter Olympics in alpine skiing and ski cross.
Finding potential high-performance athletes is just one piece of what the Institute hopes to accomplish through these testing sessions. For most participants, the goal is to simply encourage a healthy, active lifestyle.
“At the elite end of the spectrum we’re trying to find the next Olympic champions, but we’re also trying to raise awareness of general health and fitness and challenging kids to get better themselves,” Innes said.
Grade 12 student Rylan Coles went through the testing twice in hopes of improving his scores. He found he struggled the most with the beep test, which sees runners repeatedly run from one part of the gym to another in increasingly smaller time increments.
“I usually puke every time I run it and I didn’t see any garbage cans so I decided to quit before I puked,” Coles said with a laugh, adding that he enjoys the tests, seeing his results and finding out how they stack up against his classmates.
Top performers from the session at Belmont will be invited to move on to the next level, the regional qualifier at the University of Victoria on Feb. 19.
From there, top achievers can move on to the provincial final at the Richmond Olympic Oval on Mar. 5, featuring the top 100 kids from around B.C.
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