More than 1,000 athletes competed across 15 sports during the 2020 B.C. Winter Games, while 1,600 volunteers ensured the event ran smoothly Feb. 19-23 in Fort St. John.
Of those athletes in attendance, 16 were representing Quesnel, and their efforts would make their hometown proud.
The sport in which Quesnel was best represented both in athletes as well as medals won was archery, which saw two of the three Quesnel athletes each reach the podium twice in the Games.
Alison Dewling placed second in the Girls Match Play Recurve and Girls Two-Day Aggregate Recurve events, bringing home a pair of silver medals.
Jaeana Dumais, who was competing in only her third archery event ever, took first place in the Girls Two-Day Aggregate Barebow event, along with third in the Girls Match Play Barebow event.
Quesnel archer McKayla Bolitho also represented her hometown well, placing seventh in the Girls Two-Day Aggregate Recurve event.
All three archers are members of the Quesnel River Archers Club. Their club coach, Lora-Lee Murray, who was with them during the event, says the positive results from all three is a testament to the strong community in Quesnel.
“We have a very strong and quite competitive archery community, and we have a ton of support for our junior athletes,” said Murray.
Murray says the Games are a real test of all of the competing young athletes’ mental fortitude. With their regular routines being disrupted, the playing field is levelled, and they have to dig deep to focus their abilities.
“It’s tough … they’re not in their usual routine, they’re not in their own beds, they’re not with their families, there’s nothing familiar about the situation, and at that point, it’s a real equalizer for those kids because no one has the home field advantage at all,” she said.
Despite the intense competition and the pressure to perform at the event, the athletes were still able to allow their love for the sport to shine, which was evident, as they showed camaraderie among their teammates and competition.
“It’s a competition on the on the field, but it’s not a competition afterwards,” said Murray. “They are buddies right until that first arrow flies, and then as soon as it’s over, they’re congratulating each other. If someone has a bad shot, they’re over there patting them on the back saying ‘it’s OK, you got this.’ It’s pretty cool to see.”
Murray also highlighted the performance of Bolitho, who may not have shot as well as she had hoped to but was a huge part of the success of her fellow Quesnel archers.
“McKayla, I cannot say enough about that girl — she struggled, her scores were not typical at all — she kept her smile and she never lost her positive attitude,” said Murray. “She never left the bench and stayed positive for our team cheering them on.”
Quesnel figure skater Mitchell Dunn is another athlete returning from the Games with some precious metal, as he placed third, winning the bronze medal in the Pre-Novice Men event.
One of Dunn’s goals for his season was not only to make it to the B.C. Winter Games, but also to learn a double axel and land it in competition. Leading up to the Games, Dunn had not yet landed the difficult move in Quesnel, but in his first practice in Fort St. John, he nailed it, much to the delight of his coach Carly Dinicol, who was tracking his progress at home from Quesnel.
“The double axel is a huge cornerstone in figure stating,” she said. “It should take an athlete about a year to get it once they’ve got the double jumps that Mitchell has, but he only started working on it at the end of November. It’s incredible.”
Dinicol says Dunn’s success at the Games is a big deal to everyone in the Quesnel community and is a testament to his hard work and dedication to the sport.
“It’s huge for the whole community, not just the skating community, to have a Quesnel boy go up there and compete against athletes from Vancouver and the Island who skate year round,” she said. “We only have ice for seven months of the year, so Mitchell has decided to make big sacrifices and goes to Prince George two to three days a week to train, so for him to stay on a competitive level with those kids is absolutely amazing.”
Dinicol also feels that Dunn’s success is proof the work she and the other coaches do at the Quesnel Figure Skating Club is paying off and that his success will inspire more youth to take up the sport.
“It’s humbling and very exciting and really makes me feel like we’re doing a lot of things right here,” she said. “We are making the best out of the small training windows that we have, and it really inspires me to encourage more kids to dig into figure skating. There are a lot of opportunities for kids who are willing to give it their all.”
Quesnel biathlon athlete Laura Balkwill also returned home proudly sporting some new hardware, as she won the bronze medal in the Girls Team Relay Competition alongside Payton Sinclair of Prince George. Balkwill also competed in the Girls Sprint Competition, placing ninth.
Quesnel had five athletes competing in alpine skiing events. The Slalom Two-Day Run Female event saw Boroka Peter place 29th, Maya Knauf place 37th, Maggie Beaudoin place 42nd and Beth Turton place 45th, while Elliot Jarrett placed 99th in the Slalom Two-Day Run Male event.
Ringette athlete Taylor McGillivray, who was the lone Quesnel representative on a team of Prince George athletes, placed fourth in the Women’s Team Competition event.
Team Woollends competed in the B.C. Winter Games Curling Championships and finished runners-up in the consolation round, returning home with consolation silver medals. Team Woollends is made up of skip Noah Woollends, third Caleb Woollends, second Kyle Eggert, and Landon Cherry and Brycen Trimble, who alternate playing lead.
As these B.C. Winter Games come to a close, athletes look forward to the upcoming B.C. Summer Games, which will take place July 23-26 in Maple Ridge.