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Ten Greater Victoria athletes competing in Rio and where to watch them

© Copyright - 2016 - Victoria Sports News

The Rio Olympic Games are about to start and Greater Victoria – a hot bed of sports and recreation for Canada and home to a dozen national teams - is sending athletes to the games in several sports.

As for the typical build-up to the games it seems there are a few extra antagonists – the proverbial bad guys - waiting to ruin the games for everyone, like the Zika Virus, muggers and car-jackers and raw sewage – yes raw sewage is a bad guy, sort of speak. We know that well here on Vancouver Island.

The opening ceremonies that will take place tomorrow, Friday, August 5th at 4:00 PM PST in Rio’s Maracana Stadium and will likely be a spectacular display of culture, history and entertainment, at least until the talking-head speeches commence by the likes of Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee President.

After all the corruption, drugs and supposed organized crime, the playing field still holds the world’s biggest stage for live human performance and drama. Hold onto your hats.

The following Victoria-based athletes are who we are recommending you watch. This is not a complete list, as Victoria is home to 12 national teams, who train here part are full time.

Kirsten Sweetland - Triathlon:

“Sweets” is a long-time international triathlete, who has had her ups and downs due to injury and illness, but never gave up. She burst onto the scene as a teenager nearly a decade ago. The Nanaimo – now Victoria and very worldly 27-year-old athlete is favoured to perform at a high level in Rio.

Triathlon has changed since the Sydney Olympics when Victoria’s Simon Whitfield won the sport’s first ever gold medal. Although throughout his career he maintained his international dominance, he became surrounded by other top-level athletes. The Olympic distance triathlon was at first known more as a sport where the fastest runners had the best opportunity to win and while that continues to be the case, athletes now need to emerge from the water near the front and to continue through the transition zone-to-the-road for cycling and maintain their position, because many of the top triathletes can now run at a high level.

Frederic Winters – Indoor Volleyball:

He is the most experienced indoor volleyball player for Canada at the Rio Games. He has 250 caps to his credit. He has helped Canada finish fifth and seven in the FIVB World Championships and earned a bronze medal during the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games.

The captain of the men’s national team has played professionally in Austria, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Russia, China, and Brazil.

Hilary Caldwell - Swimming:

The 25-year-old backstroker is back after finishing 18th during the 2012 London Olympics in the 200-metre event.

The Randy Bennett-coached athlete owns a couple of national records. She originally hails from London, Ontario, however, trains with the national team in Victoria.

Caileigh Filmer - Rowing:

The 19-year-old Victoria rower has won silver and bronze medals in the World U-23 Championships and Youth Olympics. She is now ready to step up to the big show. If her name sounds familiar, it may be because her mother Helene was also a competitive rower for the University of Victoria Vikes.

Ryan Cochrane - Swimming:

Cochrane, who swims out of Saanich Commonwealth Pool, is a known entity and is one of the top swimmers in the world. At 27-years-of-age, the Saanich resident and Claremont Secondary alum has earned Olympic silver and bronze medals during the London Games.

He owns five national records in the pool from 400-metres to 1500-metres in the freestyle event.

He has probably lost count of the international medals that he has won in various competitions, but he now owns the record for the most medals (6) by a Canadian in the World Aquatics Championships.

Women’s Rugby Sevens Team:

Rugby saved itself by inventing the Rugby Sevens game. The traditional game is called Rugby Union; the teams are shaved to have just seven players down from 15 and the game time down to two seven minute halves, rather than 40. They are fast, high-scoring and fun to watch. Canada’s national teams practise and train in Victoria or Westhills Stadium in Langford. They are one of the best teams in the world and are favoured to finish high.

Catharine Pendrel – Mountain Biking:

Originally from New Brunswick, Pendrel happened upon mountain-biking from just going out and enjoying rides at Hartland, but was encouraged by her brother, who is an elite downhill racer. She is a former horseback rider in the event called, eventing.

She has now competed and won medals including gold during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and silver during the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games. She owns two World Championships gold, which includes the same athletes who will compete in Rio – she is likely to medal – but anything can happen in MTB. She will be exciting to watch.

This is likely the 35-year-old’s final opportunity to win an Olympic medal.

Hilary Stellingwerff – Athletics:

Stellingwerff was part of one of the dirtiest Olympic races in history during the 2012 London Olympic Games and that is saying a lot. Not to be deterred, she is back and racing in Rio for likely her final Olympic Games. The Saanich resident who races for the Speed River Track and Field Club of Guelph, Ontario and grew up on Bright’s Cove and Sarnia is a 1500-metre runner.

In London, Turkey’s Cakir Alptekin won the gold medal, since then she has tested positive for Stanazolol, the same anabolic steroid that Ben Johnson was banned for. It was her second positive test and got her a lifetime ban and removed as the Olympic champion. In one spate of testing in 2014, 37 Turkish athletes tested positive and were subsequently suspended.

Stellingwerff did not advance to the final in London, because she raced against Alptekin in the semi-final, as well as some other dirty athletes like silver medallist Gamze Bulut also of Turkey, in fact six of the 12 athletes in the final race have since tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Perhaps with a clean field and a race that suits Stellingwerff, something magical can come out of Rio, for the young mother of two-year-old Theo and her husband, Canadian Physiologist Trent, who works with some of Canada’s top athletes.

Jamie Broder – Beach Volleyball:

The 31-year-old will be competing in beach volleyball during the Rio Games. Her partner is Kristina Valjas of Toronto. The three Canadian beach volleyball teams that qualified for Rio did so in early June this year.

There will be a total of 24 teams in each the men’s and women’s events that will compete on Copacabana Beach for bronze, silver and gold.

Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee - Rowing:

The Canadian Lightweight doubles rowing team from Victoria, who train at Elk Lake, are grads from Claremont and Stelly’s, respectively. They have won medals at the world championships and competed in the 2012 London Olympics.

The final tune-up race in Lucerne was a good omen, as they won the World Cup event in June of this year.

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games will demonstrate the magic of the biggest sporting event in world history. Follow it all, here:

Official Rio Olympic website: https://www.rio2016.com/en

Watch all of the Canadian coverage on CBC Television and online at www.CBC.ca.

View the entirety of the games at Bear Mountain Resort. The resort if offering their community viewing centre for the entire Olympic Games including the opening and closing ceremonies.

Big screen televisions as large as 100-inches will show live, throughout the Westin Bear Mountain, the entire Olympic broadcast.

Visit Victoria Sports News (www.victoriasportsnews.com) daily for your local Rio reports. Follow us on Twitter
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