Local athletes had a chance to strut their stuff in front of National Sport Organizations on Sunday for the first-ever RBC Training Ground event held in Red Deer.
It took place at St. Joseph High School where roughly 100 athletes between the ages of 14 and 25 showed their Olympic potential by being tested for their speed, power, strength and endurance.
Medicine Hat native and Olympic Bronze Medal-winning cyclist Kirsti Lay says RBC has been the longest standing sponsor of Canadian Olympic athletes and they are now helping to find our next new Olympians with this event.
“The Winter Olympics just wrapped up and we have to look to the future and this is where it’s at,” says Lay. “They’re mostly from this area. Some have driven from Edmonton, from Calgary and we’re doing events all across Alberta, all across Canada, so everyone can find an event near them on RBCTrainingGround.ca”
As far as the testing is concerned, Lay says those results will determine which athletes will go to which sports.
“There’s a bunch of NSO’s here checking them out and seeing which athlete will be a best match for those sports,” explains Lay. “Cycling, skeleton, bobsleigh, Rugby Canada, there’s just a handful of them. The top two from each event will go to the Regional Finals and the top 100 of the Alberta athletes will be there as well and then they’ll have a chance at competing in the Nationals Qualifier.”
RBC Training Ground officials say there are talent scouts from Canada Snowboard, Canada Basketball, Cross Country Ski Canada, Wrestling Canada and Speed Skating Canada joining returning partners Athletics Canada, Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, Canoe Kayak Canada, Cycling Canada, Rowing Canada, Rugby Canada, Freestyle Canada, Judo Canada and Water Polo Canada searching for hidden gems and potential cross-over talent during this national initiative.
Ultimately, officials say there are 14 National Sport Organizations that will be able to choose from 30 athletes selected from across Canada to receive $7,500 each in RBC Training Ground funding to pursue their Olympic aspirations.
“They will give them funding with nutrition and training and give them the opportunity to maybe make the National Team and see if they have what it takes to represent Canada on the international stage and future Olympics,” adds Lay.
Lay’s own story actually is an interesting one. After being a long-track speed skater for many years, she switched to cycling in 2013 and won an Olympic Bronze Medal in Rio in 2016.
“I just hope they see that the opportunity RBC is giving them is such an amazing one,” exclaims Lay. “Have fun with it and enjoy the process because you never know what sport could be for you out there. It’s not necessarily the one you’re in right now.”
“I’m very similar to these athletes here,” continues Lay. “I was in a different sport, I was dreaming of the Winter Olympics, I was on the National Team in speed skating for eight years and then I got an ankle injury.”
“Then I got recruited into cycling and four years out from Rio, so I got dropped into a new sport,” continued Lay. “I’m so grateful that I had that opportunity because I never dreamed I would be a Summer Olympian, let alone an Olympic Medalist, so you never know what doors open because you put yourself out there and see what you can do.”
Lay says with this being the third of five years for RBC Training Ground, the event is gaining momentum with more people attending these events each year.
“I think it’s great what we’re doing for Canadian athletes,” states Lay. “RBC is behind them 100 per cent so it’s great to see.”
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