Two former Kelly's Kids selected as the only two Canadian athletes to race in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Congratulations Brook and Christine!
FROM THE VANCOUVER SUN: August 12, 2010
Novice triathletes get their feet wet in Games
New international competition will produce next generation of stars, says Olympic gold medallist Simon Whitfield
By Yvonne Zacharias, Vancouver Sun August 12, 2010
As two young triathletes from Vancouver Island headed off to the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, there was one veteran athlete cheering them on from the sidelines.
That was Olympic gold medallist Simon Whitfield.
If only he had had this opportunity when he was young, life would have been so much easier.
The Victoria triathlete, who is now 35, made quite a splash when he shocked the world with his big Olympics win in 2000 in Sydney. That's what most people think of whenever the champion's name is mentioned.
What they don't realize is he struggled mightily in his youth for lack of a stepping stone.
Watching Brook Powell, 16, of Victoria, and Christine Ridenour, 18, of Cowichan Bay, heading off as the only two triathletes from Canada to compete in the Games, Whitfield recalled, "When I was their age, you had to race straight into the World Cup series. I spent quite a few years, without other options, getting absolutely hammered there."
A lot of his peers dropped out of the sport because there was nothing to bridge them from being a 16-year-old just getting into the sport to racing at a high-performance international level.
He points out that teenagers develop physically at widely varying rates, but they tend to have reached the same maturity by the time they are in their mid-20s. He sees the first Youth Olympic Games as one possible way of encouraging the late developers.
"I was absolutely crushed when I was 16 because I was in a 12-year-old's body running around getting beaten by kids who were just bigger and stronger."
The Youth Olympic Games are designed to be partly cultural in that they are an opportunity for athletes around the world to compete against each other and partly a celebration of sport. Whitfield believes that is key.
"If they can stay away from turning it into the circus that the Olympics sometimes become and just keep the purity of getting athletes together and in this case, young athletes, for pure competition and the proper values of sports, that will be one of the distinct ways of measuring their success."
The two young athletes, Ridenour and Powell, have worked hard to get to Singapore. Ridenour finished third and Powell finished eighth in qualifying races in Mexico this summer.
Before leaving, Ridenour said she realizes an event such as this can be overwhelming and distracting so she plans to work at staying focused. Powell said this is his first major international race on another continent. He doesn't know what to expect but he knows it will be memorable.
Alan Trivett, executive-director of Triathlon Canada, sees it as no accident that the only two triathletes from Canada competing in the Youth Olympic Games are from B.C. With a national triathlon centre in Victoria since the late 1990s and Penticton hosting the only Iron Man competition in Canada, the province is the epicentre of the sport, he said.
A combination of swimming, cycling and running, the sport is growing by leaps and bounds. Nationally, the number of kids' training camps has grown from 144 (2001) to 922 (2009); more impressive, the number of race participants has increased from 2,022 to 16,849.
While triathlon is busy establishing itself in the pantheon of sports, the Youth Olympic Games are still experimental. As with all newbies, this baby has yet to find its place.
Trivett said he supports the Games in principle, but he added the timing poses challenges because the world championships for the sport are held in early September. "It really challenges our ability to perform very well at the world championships."
Trivett said participation in the Youth Olympic Games is far more important than the results.
"Of course, we are looking for medals there. We want to do great but these Games are very much a cultural experience for the athletes," he said. "It is more about the Olympic experience and Olympic ideals than it is about who wins the most number of gold, silvers and bronzes, which is quite different than the regular Olympic Games."
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