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Up until the late 1990s and even into the early 2000s there were not as many opportunities for women to participate in sport as there were for men. Things have definitely changed. Canada now has world-ranked national teams in soccer, hockey, curling, baseball, rugby 15s, rugby 7s, basketball and ultimate to name a few. Quality national sports inspire others to participate.

During global competition, like the Olympic Games, World Championships and Commonwealth Games, often it is the Canadian women who bring in the medals and top-10 performances. One can argue that there are still many nations that do not promote women’s sports, therefore the competition may not always run as deep in comparison to men’s sports, however, it is organizations such as Fast and Female, that allow Canada to lead the way globally; to be ahead of the competition, by supporting participation and giving more meaning to athlete’s competitive lives.

Greater Victoria girls will soon have an opportunity to find out what Fast and Female is all about.

“I have been connected to Fast and Female for the past ten years, first as a participant and now as an ambassador,” shared Jessica Furlan, an international middle-distance runner from Regina. “I was really lucky to be able to attend some of the first Fast and Female events when I was a teenager, and seeing how the ambassadors interacted with all the girls really opened my eyes to how my personal athletic pursuits could be used for much more than just my own achievements.”

Furlan once held the national record for the 3,000m steeplechase. She competed in the NCAA for the University of Nebraska, where she earned a degree in Environmental Studies. As a Husker she earned All-American honours in 2012, competed in the NCAA finals in the steeplechase in 2013 and distance medley relay in 2012.

“I am so glad that I can now be on the other side of things, working to inspire the next generation of young women through a program that did so much to inspire me when I was young,” she added with the hashtag:  #SpreadTheLove

Young women of Greater Victoria have the opportunity to become inspired too, as Fast and Female will be spreading the love at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE) on October 22. Canadian Sport Institute (CSI Pacific) based out of PISE is also a partner.

University of Victoria Vikes alumna, who has also run competitively for Canada in the 800-metre distance, Rachel Francois agrees, “Having Fast and Female means so much for the world of sports, as an organization that encourages young girls to stay involved, keep positive associations with strength and activity, and fosters empowerment and leadership.”

Victoria’s own 2016 Rio Olympic beach volleyball player, Jamie Broder, will be one of the featured ambassadors during the event at PISE. She is a 13-year veteran, competing in the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), an international circuit where the best athletes compete. She has won gold six times and placed top-10 in at least 30 other times during her career.

“Growing up in sport allowed me to build my self-confidence, learn valuable leadership skills, and develop lifelong friendships.  The environment that Fast and Female has created is one where sport is celebrated, healthy active living is encouraged, and supportive relationships are developed.  These events create a connection to the sport ambassadors in their local communities, so that young girls have a positive role model in sport to look up to.  Sharing the joy and passion that I have for sport is something near and dear to my heart.  I hope to inspire many young females to stay involved in sport, and recognize that beyond competition there are many ways to challenge yourself and build skills that will last a lifetime,” shared Broder. “The Fast and Female motto rings true for me, “Girls in sport are empowered for life.””

Furlan reflects back to her early days with the Fast and Female program, where she wrote an essay on what it meant for her to go to one of their early camps. She earned a trip to Canmore for her efforts. That was back in 2006 – like Broder says, “Girls in sport are empowered for life.”

“I was one of 12 girls from across the country (one from each province) to be selected to go to Canmore for the weekend of the event. Our travel was subsidized and we stayed with host families. It has been cool to see what that group of 24 of us (the 12 girls and our host “sisters”) have done over the years. Some have been on the national team for XC skiing, others have been involved with different sports or academic pursuits, but I think being part of a program like this was very impactful and motivating for all of us.”

The Fast and Female Champ Chat at PISE includes a physical activity circuit, yoga, autographs, and an inspirational chat with the ambassadors, which include Furlan, Broder, Francois as well as Mariah Kelly, another international middle-distance runner for Canada.

Yoga will be led by published author, yogi, and teacher, Nicole McLellan.

The event takes place Sunday, October 22 from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Girls age 8 to 18 are encouraged to come out, cost is just $30.

Full details can be found, here>>



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