London hosts RBC Training Ground

A photo of athletes talking to up and comers at Western's Rec Centre CREDIT: JUSTIN KOEHLER
These events are an opportunity for young athletes to get a first look under the watchful eye of trained professionals as well as Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Pictured (left to right): Paralympian James Dunn and Olympian Jennifer Martins.

On March 11, London hosted its first ever RBC Training Ground event to spot possible emerging athletic talent in the area.

These events, which are hosted nationally in various cities across the country, are an opportunity for young athletes to get a first look under the watchful eye of trained professionals as well as Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

“It’s amazing,” said Jack Bailey, a student athlete who drove in from Collingwood to attend the event. “Usually when I do all of this fitness testing, it’s just at my school. Here, there are actual athletes who are great at all of it. It makes it more competitive and I like it.”

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The event, which was held at Western University’s Recreation Centre, was run almost entirely by RBC and involved little to no setup or assistance from the university itself.

“RBC Training Ground has been a phenomenal partner,” said Chad Van Dyke, the Director of Recreation and Well-being with Western University. “They jump around to every facility and need minimal support. Everything here came in a small van. They’ve been really easy to come in and work with which lets us show off the athletes better.”

The event was divided into various sections across the gymnasium with sprint testing, vertical jump, weight training, and more being featured and observed throughout the day.

Of course, while most of the attention was on the athletes themselves as well as their testing, some extra excitement and nerves came from the presence of some local Olympians and Paralympians who came to observe the next generation of athletes.

“It’s an amazing event, there’s no one doing anything really like it,” said Paralympic sledge hockey silver medalist James Dunn. “It’s a great chance to find emerging talent and for people to really show off their skills and talents, really give it a shot.”

Dunn, who grew up just outside the city in Wallacetown, Ont., was a part of London’s Blizzard Sledge Hockey Club after having his leg amputated at age 11. He would later go on to compete at the 2018 Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea as well as the 2022 Paralympic games in Beijing, coming home with silver medals from both.

Dunn went on to talk about his own experiences as well as the pride he feels attending events such as this.

“It’s just such an awesome feeling to see the joy people get out of it and to see them push to reach their goals. It never gets old, I love seeing it.”

Several other local Olympic athletes attended the event including Miranda Ayim, Jennifer Martins, and Kelsey Mitchell.

“It could be a great identifying opportunity for young athletes. I think for all of us we want it to be inclusive and a place for everyone, this is all part of their journey. They may not be making lifelong decisions today, but this could be their first step,” said Van Dyke.

At the end of it all, having the chance for the next generation of young athletes to have their shot at their dreams is what was most important coming out of the event. With plenty of thoughts and questions in the minds of those who attended, Dunn had one final remark for those with new Olympic possibilities in their future.

“Just keep pushing, keep training, and focusing on your goals. Never give up on them. It’s what I did and it’s always my word of advice.”