Julianne Moore of Salmon Arm, pictured here during the Teck BC Championships for cross country skiing on Feb. 17, is one of many young local skiers who will be competing at the 2018 BC Winter Games in Kamloops as part of the Okanagan team. (Photo by Karin Huster)

Julianne Moore of Salmon Arm, pictured here during the Teck BC Championships for cross country skiing on Feb. 17, is one of many young local skiers who will be competing at the 2018 BC Winter Games in Kamloops as part of the Okanagan team. (Photo by Karin Huster)

Young Salmon Arm athletes gear up for the 2018 BC Winter Games

20 competitors across five events vying for the podium in Kamloops

The 2018 BC Winter Games are fast approaching, bringing youth athletes from across the province to Kamloops for a weekend of fierce competition for the top of the podium. The games kick off with an opening ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m., while the athletes compete Friday, Feb. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 24.

Coming into their 29th year in 2018, the BC Winter Games have a long history of celebrating athletic excellence in the province, bringing together over 1,200 athletes for this year’s competitions. Each participant or team, depending on the event, competes for one of eight geographic zones which divide the province.

Many of the the events are what one might expect out of a winter sporting tournament, featuring athletes competing in curling, ringette, figure skating, speed skating, biathlon, snowboarding as well as alpine, cross country and freestyle skiing. However, a host of other sports including basketball, diving, gymnastics and martial arts will also be featured at indoor venues across Kamloops over the weekend.

Four events for disabled athletes are also featured, including wheelchair and special olympics basketball, as well as separate divisions for figure skating and cross-country skiing.

Amongst the 1,229 athletes vying for a podium spot in this year’s games are a healthy dose of competitors from Salmon Arm and the surrounding area, representing the Thompson-Okanagan region.

In the speed skating events, Daniel Hall, Laura Hall, Jack Isaac and Aila Norlin will be competing. They will be joined by coach Mike Hall and supervisor Kelsey Norlin.

“I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m pretty excited because this is the first year that I was able to qualify for it. I am feeling really prepared for it though,” says speed skater Aila Norlin, who is a part of the Salmon Arm Icebreakers speed skating club.

The ringette team will feature players Phoebe Barnes, Sydney Decker, Perry Delaney and Sadi Weed from Salmon Arm.

Ella Mills will be representing Salmon Arm in the alpine skiing event.

Fraser Paiement will be competing in the biathlon event, hot on the heels of a fifth place biathlon finish as part of the 222nd Royal Air Cadets Squadron team with his younger brother Carson.

“I always wanted to try biathlon because I tried shooting a few times and I enjoyed it,” Paiement says. “I’d been skiing competitively for the past few years so I figured why not try it – it sounds like the perfect sport for me.”

The cross-country skiing competition features an incredible amount of talent from Salmon Arm, likely owing to the fact that it is a popular winter pastime in the community.

Skiers Teslyn Bates, Talia Brown, Jacob Hepburn, Trond May, Lys Milne, Julianne Moore, Katie Thielman, Sophia van Varseveld, Alexandra Peterson and Isabelle Wilkie will be representing Salmon Arm in the cross-country skiing events. They will be joined by head coach Duncan Moore and supervisor Robert van Varseveld, also from Salmon Arm.

The BC Winter Games are made possible in part by over $550K in provincial funding, alongside significant donations from partner organizations and the city of Kamloops. The importance of volunteer support for the Games, however, is difficult to overstate. Approximately 1,600 volunteers will be working the event, assisting in setup, organization of events, directing athletes to and from competition, making sleeping arrangements for competitors and preparing over 25,000 meals over the course of three days.

Stay tuned to the Observer, both online and in print, for follow-up coverage on the performance of local athletes at the Kamloops 2018 BC Winter Games.