On first glance, it may appear Kamloops has just one athlete set to compete at the Rio Olympics, but consider the athletic ties that the Tournament Capital and TRU have brought to the field.
Cross-country mountain bike champion Catharine Pendrel is in Rio as the opening ceremony approaches on Friday, Aug. 5. In a strict sense, she’s sole home town competitor at the Summer Olympic Games.
“Olympians aren't just athletes, they're role models and mentors that inspire the next generation,” Pendrel tweeted Wednesday as an “ambassador” supporting the CBC serial coverage of Canadian competitors.
Olympic competition is nothing new for Pendrel — this is her fourth Olympiad since Beijing in 2008.
Team Canada has set its sights on bringing home at least 19 medals, Chef de Mission Curt Harnett said Wednesday in Rio. More than 300 Canadian athletes will compete with women outnumbering men, 186 to 128.
“The hopes and dreams of thousands of athletes are about to play out,” Harnett said.
TRU can also stake a claim to Olympic bragging rights in these Games.
For the first time, two TRU alumna are part of volleyball action. Gord Perrin of Creston and Kevin Tillie of Sur de Mer, France are on Team Canada and Team France, respectively.
The two were teammates in 2010 when TRU hosted the nationals.
“Both of them have said many times they started their volleyball careers in Kamloops,” said Larry Read, TRU sports information officer.
Pat Hennelly, TRU volleyball coach, calls it a special moment for Canadian volleyball. He recalls outstanding potential in Perrin in particular.
“I think Canada has done a good job relative to how important volleyball is in the world,” Hennelly said.
He recalled watching the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, when Team Canada placed fourth. That inspired him to pursue volleyball as a sport, though he’d played a little before that.
Perrin, who played three years with WolfPack and led them to a bronze medal at the 2007-08 CIS Championship, where he was named tournament all-star.
“Gord was all show,” Hennelly said. “He really showed his ability to step up in situations like that.
In 2009-2010, Perrin was the TRU’s male athlete of the year.
He went on to be a member of the Canadian volleyball team that came within one win of qualifying for London 2012, losing to the United States in the final of NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament. In 2014 he was part of Canada’s best ever seventh place finish at the FIVB World Championships. He was also a member of the Canadian teams that won bronze at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and gold at the 2015 NORCECA Continental Championship.
Tillie has volleyball in his blood — his father has coached Team France and his mother coached Team Netherlands.
“He definitely worked hard and developed muscle and jump,” Hennelly said of the wing spiker.
The Kamloops National Throws Centre has developed a consistent track record of turning out top-ranking athletes and certainly gives the city a greater stake in the podium when it comes to athletics.
Tim Nedow, from Ontario, was a national champion in discus and shot put for three consecutive years, 2013-2015. He got off to a strong start in 2016 in shotput, breaking the 21-metre mark for the first time before setting his personal best at 21.33 metres in February.
Heather Steacy of Saskatoon made her Olympic debut in hammer throw at London in 2012, when she was joined on the team by her older brother Jim. She first represented Canada at the 2005 IAAF World Youth Championships before winning bronze at the 2007 Pan American Junior Championships. She captured hammer throw gold at the 2009 Canada Games. Steacy was the Canadian champion in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Taryn Suttie, also of Saskatoon, was a double gold medallist at the 2011 CIS Championships, where she won in both hammer throw and shot put. She was named outstanding female athlete of the meet and CIS female field athlete of the year. She captured the Canadian title in 2015 after placing second in 2012 and 2014. After setting her shot put personal best at 17.61 metres in April 2015, Suttie finished ahead of Canadian record holder Julie Labonté at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.
Pendrel has been bringing home the metal since 2007, when she won gold at the Pan Am Games. She won the World Cup in 2010 and 2012, and entered in London as the reigning champion before finishing a disappointing ninth. Her career rebounded two years ago when she won a second world title and gold at the Commonwealth Games. Last year, she won silver at the Pan Ams, finished fourth in overall World Cup standings and posted a fifth-place finish at the world championships.
In total, B.C. is sending 142 athletes with a connection to B.C., making up 45 percent of Team Canada, to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The athletes, who have been living and training in B.C., will take part in 18 sports with the majority competing in athletics, rowing and swimming.
Of the 142 athletes, 68 of them have a hometown in the province and 128 are training in B.C. or receiving support services from either Canadian Sport Institute (CSI) Pacific or PacificSport centres. The B.C. contingent in Brazil will also include 23 coaches, 12 CSI Pacific sport scientists and 11 medical practitioners with a connection to the province.
WHEN TO WATCH
Women's cross-country final, 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20
Tim Nedow (Kamloops) - Shot Put
Qualifying begins 5:55 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 18. Final at 4:30 p.m.
Heather Steacy (Kamloops) - Hammer Throw
Final 6:40 a.m. Monday, Aug. 15
Taryn Suttie (Kamloops) - Shot Put
Qualifying 6:05 a.m. Friday, Aug. 12. Final 6 p.m.
Gord Perrin and Kevin Tillie (TRU alumna) - Volleyball
Preliminary round begins Sunday, Aug. 7. First game 7:35 a.m. vs. USA
Game 2 Tuesday, Aug. 9, 6:35 a.m. vs. Brazil
Game 3 Thursday, Aug. 11, 1:05 p.m. vs. France
Game 4 Saturday, Aug. 13, 4:30 p.m. vs. Mexico
Game 5 Monday, Aug. 15, 4:30 p.m. vs. Italy
Quarter-finals begin Wednesday, Aug. 17
With files from Castanet