Local athletes excel – with a little help

STRAIT SCOOP: On a per-capita basis, it feels Campbell River is exceeding its mandate for high-calibre performers

Perhaps it’s something in the water. Perhaps it’s simply that Campbell River has water while much of Vancouver Island is in a Level 4 drought.

Whatever it is, our humble community seems to be producing an inordinate quantity of national- and world-calibre athletes across a wide spectrum of sport.

In the past two weeks alone, we’ve seen 2014 Carihi grad Selena Lasota win a world lacrosse championship, local teen Mackenzie Padington earn a Canadian age-group swimming championship, hometown lad Brendan Hoff — fresh off an appearance in the World Youth Track & Field Championships — win his third national track and field title,  Kelsey Painter and Anthony Henry each a pair of gold medals in judo at the Western Canada Summer Games, and Michele Forberg play basketball for Team Canada in the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles.

Just yesterday, 2015 Carihi grad Valerie Doyon, who earlier this year won a North American karate championship, departed for Bolivia to compete for Team Canada in the 2015 Pan-Am Karate Championships.

And that’s just a brief snapshot of summer. The 2015 roll call includes the likes of Teale Harle rising to the ranks of the top freestyle snowboarders in Canada, and the Western Canadian hockey championship won by the Junior B Campbell River Storm, whose roster was one-third comprised of hometown skaters.

On a per-capita basis, it feels Campbell River is exceeding its mandate for high-calibre performers. You would expect this parade of excellence out of major centres like Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa, or university towns like Victoria.

Those are the kinds of places you’ll find the high-performance, sport-specific academies and training camps.

So what’s behind Campbell River’s success stories? Well, in large part it’s who’s behind them.

Throughout the city, both paid coaches and volunteers have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of teaching, supporting and opening doors for those youngsters willing to invest their time and energies to succeed and excel, in both team and individual activities.

They area further backed by a supportive community that approves the construction and maintenance of public facilities, by businesses willing to sponsor these activities and by individuals willing to contribute to fundraisers or to volunteer. It all starts, of course, with the athletes and their families, who typically make the greatest sacrifices of time and money to get the ball rolling.

But why bother ourselves with celebrating athletic success? There are plenty of major issues that should demand our attention — homelessness, environmental degradation, budget cuts to public education, a flawed health care system, to name a few.

Well, the best way to deal with any community need is to have a community attractive to the best and brightest, to the next generation of policymakers and creators. To those who have learned the value of teamwork, of sharing and of giving back.

Vibrant recreational facilities and instructors are part of that draw, and Campbell River has them in spades.

The great majority of our young athletes will never step onto the podium at a World Cup Snowboard event, go shoulder-to-shoulder in the pool with Olympians or win Division I university scholarships and awards.

But they live in a community that gives them a chance to do so. And that is worth celebrating.