Olympic team members surround MLA Ida Chong at last month's London send-off.

LONDON 2012: Island’s Olympic squad ready to go

Reaching the Olympic podium is a community effort

As the Olympic torch fires up today, parting words from rower Dave Calder echo as resolutely as they did at last month’s Olympic send-off.

“It’s Canadian to be modest, but our pride has caught on like wildfire.”

And so it has, especially in Victoria, where Simon Whitfield has become as much a national icon in his own country as the flag he’ll wave at the Opening Ceremony in London.

Calder has seen the rise in national confidence and credits president Marcel Aubut of the Canadian Olympic Committee for bringing athletics to the forefront in recent years.

But it’s also no secret the rigorous training regimes of an Olympic athlete has its ups and downs. And Calder is quick to point out London is the culmination of years of sacrifice.

“Doing the work to get (to the Olympics) and getting support to be the best demands so much,” he said. “If you see a Canadian on the podium, you know it’s taken the combined effort from hundreds of people to get them there.”

No example is better than Calder’s two-year-old daughter.

“I calculated it out that I’ve been on the water (rowing) for more time than she’s been alive.”

Calder and crewmate Scott Frandsen are gunning for a second-straight medal in the men’s pair, having won silver in 2008.

They are a veteran crew on Canada’s summer Olympic team. Though Canada is a winter sport country, expectations have risen with the success at Vancouver 2010 and the Own the Podium program.

With rowers, swimmers, triathletes, cyclists and more, Victoria’s role as a training hub is on display in London now.

Before he left to London, Whitfield said sharing the area’s resources with members of other disciplines in the high-performance community means more than you’d think.

“You have Elk Lake, this beautiful lake, and you’re running around the back side of it in winter. It’s pouring with rain, or snowing, and you’re gritting your teeth. You look out to the water and see rowers with no gloves on and no protection from the trees, which shield the running path from the rain, and you get pumped.

“What a wonderful community that is.”

From the Island, with love

With so many athletes based out of Greater Victoria for the area’s year-round training climate, it’s getting hard to keep track of native athletes, temporary visitors, and transplants who’ve come to stay.

While the national training centres for swimming, rowing and triathlon are obvious draws, as is the Canadian Sports Centre Pacific, some come to Victoria in hopes of an international athletics career.

Not to be overlooked, the UVic Vikes athletic program is a key piece of the Island’s Olympic development system. The Vikes are responsible for starting many Olympians on their way, such as alumnae Rachelle Viinberg (nee de Jong) and Darcy Marquardt. The pair of rowers are in the women’s eight, though their time at the university has come and gone. Marquardt, however, only took up the sport upon arriving at UVic.

Lindsay Jennerich, 29, also competed for the Vikes. Jennerich, a Claremont secondary grad, and Patricia Obee, 20, from Stelly’s secondary, will race the lightweight double.

Jennerich is originally from here and has no intentions of leaving. So much so that when Obee joined Jennerich in the double last year, the two led a successful coup against Rowing Canada to train in Victoria rather than London, Ont., the previous home of the women’s double.

And unlike Marquardt and Viinberg, some Vikes do stick around.

Vikes alumni Gabe Bergen and Doug Csima are in this year’s men’s eight crew, which is based out of Elk Lake. Other members of that boat, Andrew Byrnes and coxswain Brian Price, are from Ontario, but are embedded in Victoria.

“I’ve been living in Victoria for about seven of the last 10 years, full time since January 2007,” said Price, who won gold with the boat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “My two kids were born at Victoria General Hospital and my wife works in Brentwood Bay.”

Regardless, Price still lists his hometown as Belleville.

“Gotta keep the roots intact.”

Victoria’s Olympians

CyclingRyder Hesjedal, Road race, Time trialMax Plaxton, Mountain bikingGillian Carleton, Team track pursuit

SwimmingHilary Caldwell, 200m backstrokeStephanie Horner, 400m I.M.Richard Weinberger, open water 10k Ryan Cochrane, 400m freestyle, 1500m freestyleAlexa Komarnycky, 800m freestyleAlec Page, 400m I.M.Julia Wilkinson, 200m I.M.Blake Worsley, 200m freestyle

DivingRiley McCormick, 10m tower

TriathlonBrent McMahonSimon WhitfieldKyle JonesPaula Findlay

FencingMonica Peterson, foil

TrackHillary Stellingwerff, 1,500mBrent Fougner, Canadian senior national event group coach

RowingWomen’s lightweight doubleLindsay Jennerich and Patricia ObeeMen’s pairDavid Calder and Scott FrandsenMen’s doubleMichael Braithwaite and Kevin Kowalyk

Men’s fourWilliam Dean, Anthony Jacob, Derek O’Farrell, Michael Wilkinson

Men’s eightGabe Bergen, Jeremiah Brown, Andrew Byrnes, Will Crothers, Douglas Csima, Robert Gibson, Malcolm Howard, Conlin McCabe, Brian Price

Men’s lightweight doubleMorgan JarvisDouglas VandorRowing coachesAllison Dobb, John Keogh, Terry Paul, Michael Spracklen, Kenny Wu

ATHLETES32 of 277 athletes are from Victoria = 12% of the Canadian Olympic Team and 29% of the 110 BC-based athletes headed to London9 of 277 athletes are from Vancouver Island = 3% of the Canadian Olympic Team and 8% of the 110 BC-based athletes headed to London41 of 277 athletes from all of Vancouver Island = 15% of the Canadian Olympic Team and 37% of the 110 BC-based athletes headed to LondonCOACHES and TECHNICAL STAFF10 of 96 coaches and technical staff are from Victoria = 10% of the Canadian Olympic Team and 39% of the 26 BC-based coaches headed to LondonMEDICAL SUPPORT STAFF4 of 36 medical support staff are from Victoria = 11% of the Canadian Olympic Team and 37% of the 11 BC-based medical support team headed to London

 

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