• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Canmore Throws Party for Winter Olympians

      June 2, 2014

      The sound of applause filled the mountain air Saturday morning in honour of Bow Valley’s Olympian and Paralympian athletes.

      Around 300 people gathered in front of the Civic Centre in Canmore to show their support and welcome the athletes home.

      The celebration was a grassroots effort led by a local couple, Linda and Blair Dunbar, who wanted to give the community an opportunity to congratulate local athletes for their successes during the 2014 Winter Olympics hosted by Sochi, Russia.

      The volunteer-driven event is what Mayor John Borrowman called “classic Canmore.”

      “Canmore and the Bow Valley are really strong supporters of our athletes, with the Nordic Centre here particularly and the fact that the Canadian biathlon and Canadian nordic team train here,” he said. “We really accept all of those athletes as friends and neighbours — as part of our community.”

      This year, Canada sent its largest ever Winter Olympic team to Sochi. And both the Olympic and Paralympic teams saw great success, bringing home 25 and 16 medals respectively. Out of the 200 athletes who travelled to Sochi in February, 24 — or more than 10 per cent of the team — call the Bow Valley their home.

      “It gives us so much pride as locals to have these people living and working with us,” said Borrowman.

      During the ceremony, the 18 Olympians and Paralympians present were offered personalized portraits designed by Victoria artist Timothy Hoey, as well as chocolate medals they could really sink their teeth into from Le Chocolatier in Canmore.

      “To have this many people to come out and support it kind of hits home to see what it means not just to our community, but I think to all Canadians what we were able to accomplish,” said Paralympian Brian McKeever. “We’re very proud of the results and the efforts we put in.”

      A 10-time Paralympic gold medalist, McKeever said community support is essential to the success of Bow Valley’s athletes.

      “We’re the ones who are out there road skiing in the early mornings, waking people up and being a menace on the roads,” he said.

      But despite the early morning wake-up calls, the town has always been supportive.

      “I think they understand what we’re trying to accomplish and they’re right behind us. And that’s amazing because without that we wouldn’t be able to do it,” said McKeever. “It’s not just the best place to be training for skiing, it’s just one of the best places in the world to live. We feel very fortunate to be a part of this community.”

      After the ceremony the Olympians and Paralympians were busy signing autographs and posing for pictures.

      “It means a lot to us to be able to connect with the community,” said cross-country skier Chandra Crawford. “We’re very sequestered in our training regimes. You see us on the roads a lot, but otherwise we’re really focused. And now’s a nice time to come out and have a barbecue and thank some people.”

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      Here are some photos of the day by Glen Crawford Productions

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      Cross Country Olympian & Paintbox Lodge owner, Sara Renner, makes the final preparation to host the Sochi athletes prior to the start of the parade and celebration

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      Biathletes Rosanna Crawford & Megan Imrie

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      Bow Valley Olympians & Paralympians of Sochi 2014

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      Beautiful parade down the "Walk of Champions"

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      Future Olympians holding up the guard as we see Sochi Alpine Bronze Medallist Jan Hudec come through

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      Unmatched local support for the Bow Valley athletes!

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      Cross-country skiers Ivan Babikov, Graeme Killick & Jesse Cockney show off their personalized artwork from Timothy Hoey

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      Paralympians Brian McKeever, Mark Arendz and guide, Eric Carleton (for Brian McKeever)

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      The athletes also received some delicious chocolate medals made from local business, Le Chocolatier

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      Thank you to Blair & Linda Dunbar, volunteer organizers extraordinaire who put this event together. Thank you!