Olympic Hopefuls Put Through Paces at 2012 Podium Search

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN

Victoria, BC (ISN) – So you think you have what it takes to be an Olympic level athlete? That is what over 65 aspiring athletes were hoping to find out at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE) Sunday as the Canadian Sport Centre Pacific (CSC Pacific) hosted its first-ever PODIUM SEARCH.

This new initiative was a free, half-day talent identification camp for athletes aged 15-22. Each athlete was put through basic physiological and anthropomorphic tests including strength, aerobics, speed and endurance results and graded to find out how they measured up to National Team standards.

“Becoming an Olympic or Paralympic champion is a long journey and test of character,” said Kurt Innes, Director of Talent Development with CSC Pacific and Olympic track cyclist (1992) and Olympic cycling coach (2000, 2004). “PODIUM SEARCH is the first step for these athletes to better understand what the high performance pathway looks like and the steps involved to potentially achieve podium performances.”
 

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CSC Pacific Director of Talent development Kurt Innes (left) and former Olympic rower Barney Williams (right) address the athletes prior to testing Sunday (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

“One of the goals behind Podium Search is to identify athletes that are going to be the next high performance athletes for Canada” added Innes. “We have a pretty good idea and profile of what an Olympic athlete looks like in rowing, so today we will put athletes through some of those rowing specific tests today to see how they measure up. If they meet or exceed the standards, then great, we can see if those folks want to become a rower, but we can also use the results as a good benchmark for their fitness should they wish to stick with their chosen sport, or with other sport options they may want to consider.”
 

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Dan Hoff (left) does the vertical leap test, while Tyberius Gordon (right) does the sprint testing Sunday (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

One potential high performance athlete doing the testing Sunday was 17-year old Jason Stewart of Lambrick Park Secondary School in Saanich.

Stewart, a rep goaltender in the Saanich Minor Hockey Association, who has aspirations to play hockey at the Junior level and beyond, has been training diligently for the past two years at the Island Centre of Excellence (ICE) and Compton Sports Training in Colwood, and wanted to see how his improved level of fitness stacked up to some Olympic standards.
 

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Jason Stewart gives it his all on the arm pull test at Podium Search on Sunday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

“My previous trainer at ICE, Dustin More, at one point suggested I would do well in competitive weightlifting and I guess that got me curious as to what other sport options might be out there for me to consider. When I saw the Podium Search notice, I thought it would be interesting to come out and see where I stand.”

Alek Crane of Victoria also expressed a similar sentiment, “I do a lot of competitive road racing [cycling] so I am here to see what their overall assessment is of my physical fitness, plus to get my name out there with the folks here and see where it can take me.”

Another mission behind Podium Search is to highlight to athletes in other mainstream sports, that there may be other options in their future, should they wish to participate in sports at a higher level. For example a Junior lacrosse player who finds his career over once he “ages out” may be such a good athlete, that he could excel at rowing, or other Olympic level sports.

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Alek Crane (left) and Curtis Champion (right) on the Schwin Bike test (Photos by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

“We see it all the time in some of the mainstream sports, where an athlete in his or her chosen sport hits a ceiling in terms of their development, or doesn’t get drafted, or is cut or whatever” notes Innes. “We want to show kids that even though this happens, there might be an opportunity to be excellent in a different sport and to keep those options in mind down the road.”

All of the athletes who participated in today’s inaugural PODIUM SEARCH walked away with a copy of their test scores and a good understanding of what it takes to become part of Canada’s sporting elite.

They will also be evaluated for possible selection for CSC Pacific’s Talent Development Programs (TDPs), based on their test scores during the talent identification camp. The TDPs are designed to propel athletes from their developmental stages to the Olympic podium.
 

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Jason Stewart does the leg press test under the watchful eye of instructor Ben Rutledge (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

“After today, we will evaluate the data and if athlete meets the standards then obviously we can fit them in to the rowing talent development centre with Barney Williams and his group” said Innes. For those that are not interested in rowing, we will see if we can match them up with other sports and other programs.”

In closing Innes noted “that whatever the case, I am just excited that over 65 young athletes are here today and I think that bodes well for the future of high performance sports here in Victoria and for Canada in general.”

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