The torch is lit and flame is burning – the 2016 BC Winter Games in Penticton have officially begun.
It was a sold-out crowd at the South Okanagan Events Centre, as over 1,700 athletes paraded in to Opening Ceremony music and cheering to kick off largest multi-sport winter event in the province.
Four athletes carried the torch, Peter de la Mothe (Skiing - Alpine), Brayden Kuroda (Skiing - Freestyle), Anna Spence (Skiing - Freestyle) and Caitlyn Riddle (Karate). All are set to compete for the Thompson-Okanagan Zone 2 at the Games.
Penticton MLA Dan Ashton and Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit welcomed the crowd, in addition to Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger and elder Richard Armstrong. Penticton BC Winter Games President Bill Bidlake said he was blown away by the number of volunteers and how amazing they’ve been. “Penticton is professional. Penticton’s got game because of you,” he said.
The highlight from the evening came from Kristi Richards, two-time Olympian in freestyle skiing, who returned to her hometown of the South Okanagan to provide an inspiring message to the young athletes.
The former BC Games alumni described her experience of training for years leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and being in the gate about to compete for a gold medal. Although she left the gate feeling strong, Richards fell halfway through her run.
She described the moment when she stood up from her fall, and could feel the energy of the crowd around her. She took four deep breaths and then continued her run and performed one of the best aerials in her career.
“Every moment is a chance to perform,” Richards said, encouraging athletes in Penticton to “enjoy every moment.”
It may be only one day into the event, but the BC Winter Games are leaving a lasting impression on the athletes.
“The atmosphere and the support for the athletes makes me appreciate what we have here,” said Migs Mercado, a judo athlete from Surrey who is competing with the Fraser River Zone. “There’s no way to stop the feeling. This is a stepping stone for bigger things.”
Shivani Bahadur is a speedskater from Mission who said she was honoured to be part of the 2016 BC Winter Games. “The energy is great. I’ve been taking pictures with random people, and they’ve been great. There’s lot of positive energy.”