High-level youth athletes excelled on the big stage.
Nanaimo teens helped Team B.C. to its most impressive medal haul in more than 15 years this month at the Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops.
The Nanaimo contingent returned with 14 medals, including five gold medals, at the end of the two-week event.
Canoe racers Liz Kraft and Natasha Cross teamed up to win two gold medals each, golfer Mark Valliere also won a pair of gold medals and race walker Katelynn Ramage breezed to gold in her specialty.
The 15-year-old paddlers from the Nanaimo Canoe and Kayak Club were all smiles upon their return from the Games.
“We kind of went into the regatta almost feeling like the underdogs, just because that was mine and Liz’s first big regatta and you’re sizing up your competition,” said Cross. “So then when we started to medal it was like, ‘wow, we’re up there.’”
The girls had some strong results on Shumway Lake, then broke through with their first gold in the 500-metre C4 on Cross’s birthday.
“It was fantastic because we just pushed it as hard as we could and we were so proud of ourselves,” Kraft said.
On the last day of competition, the girls grabbed gold in the fastest canoe race, the C4 200m.
“We went straight through the race course like we never had before,” said Cross. “And that was the last race of the regatta so you can’t get much better than that.”
For the girls, there was much more to the Games experience than just the canoe races. They got to participate in a huge opening ceremony, and they also enjoyed cheering on other B.C. athletes in basketball and track and field.
“You feel like part of this huge team,” said Cross.
Athlete shares her knowledge
It might have been the largest margin of victory ever at the Western Canada Summer Games, but in a way, it was the best race of all.
Nanaimo’s Katelynn Ramage won the gold medal in the 5,000m race walk Aug. 8 in Kamloops. She did it in a Games-record time of 26 minutes, 47.84 seconds, more than 15 minutes better than the silver medallist.
The race walk was actually not going to go ahead, as Ramage was the only athlete who registered. But she and coach Allen Johnston held a clinic for three Northwest Territories athletes who then entered the race.
Even though the pupils weren’t able to surpass their teacher, two of them earned medals they wouldn’t have otherwise received.
Golfer shoots historic rounds
Mark Valliere was on the right course at the right time.
This is the first year that golf has been a part of the Western Canada Summer Games, and the Nanaimo teen set a standard that will be tough to follow. His scorecards of 69, 69 and 67 gave him a three-stroke victory, 11 under par. His leadership also meant that B.C. secured the first gold medal in team competition on the links.
Games just the beginning of journey
Eleven Nanaimo athletes were part of B.C.’s 345-member contingent, which won 130 gold, 68 silver and 63 bronze medals.
“This is an amazing performance,” said Irene Schell, Team B.C.’s chef de mission, in a press release. “The talent pool of athletes in this province is deep. I look forward to following these athletes as they continue their journey to the top of national and international podiums.”
Local top-10 results from Kamloops include:
Athletics – Katelynn Ramage, 10th, 3,000 metres, first, 5,000m race walk; Doug Oxland, seventh, 3,000m, fifth, 5,000m; Veronica Luedke, fourth, 400m hurdles.
Canoe/kayak – Liz Kraft, fifth, C1 1,000m, second, C2 1,000m, fourth, C1 200m, sixth, C1 500m, third, C2 500m, second, C2 500m, third, C4 1,000m, first, C4 200m, first, C4 500m, third, 500m war canoe; Natasha Cross, third, C2 2,000m, third, C4 1,000m, first, C4 200m, first, C4 500m, fifth, K2 200m, third, 500m war canoe.
Golf – Mark Valliere, first, individual, first, team competition.
Gymnastics – Karleena Hatch, third, all-around, third, bars, third, beam, fifth, vault, second, team competition; Maya Asselin-Debelic, 10th, floor.
Swimming – Andrew Frenchy, fourth, 100m backstroke, fifth, 100m freestyle, fourth, 50m back, fourth, 50m breaststroke, fifth, 50m free.