“A chance, just one chance” – that’s what Sarah Orban is hoping for. The University of Lethbridge athletics and soccer athlete has always dreamed of going to the Olympic Games and now she may just get that chance. After winning the RBC Training Ground Alberta Finale on Saturday in Calgary, she says that the program provided the boost she needed to reach for that goal.
“It was like a sign to me,” she says, just moments after being named the winner. “Seeing that there was this opportunity, I knew that I had to come and give it my all.”
The final event wraps up Alberta’s search, in what has been a national effort to find Canada’s best athletes and potentially next Olympians.
Talent identification is nothing new, but has had limited capacity on a grand scale within the sport system in Canada. “There simply hasn’t been enough capacity in Canada, human or financial, to support this kind of program,” says Kurt Innes, the National Technical lead for RBC Training Ground.
RBC wanted to help build capacity within the sport system and from there the RBC Training Ground event was born. The marketing of the program also added significant credibility and helped to reach a much wider audience to attract participants. Last year, of the 400 athletes who participated, 26 were plugged in to various National Sport Organizations (NSOs), four of whom have gone on to make a big impact.
Patrice St-Louis Pivin was a bobsleigh and powerlifting athlete who came through the RBC Training Ground program last year and within just a year and a half became a starter for the team sprint event at the world track cycling championships. Kieanna Stephens, 16, was a female hockey player who switched to rowing and is now the best U19 singles sculler in Canada.
“The real challenge is that we are working today to find the next Olympian,” says Innes. “This is, at minimum, a five to eight-year journey,” he adds. The long-term vision for the program can be difficult for outsiders to appreciate but Innes is confident that ultimately this program will find athletes who are serious contenders for competing at the Olympic Games.
“Everything we are testing for and monitoring are trainable qualities,” says Innes. This means that athletes identified as having those qualities can vastly improve given the right direction and training environment. Ultimately, they are trying to help stream athletes into other sports.
Thanks to RBC Training Ground, this could be the route to the Olympic Games for Orban, who says she is now considering a switch to the sport of skeleton. She adds, “I’ve always wanted to put all of my focus into one sport.”
As the winner, she’ll also get to experience the Olympic Games first hand next year as she heads to PyeongChang, South Korea to soak in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Quite a chance, indeed.
Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by: Dave Holland @csicalgaryphoto