The world's eyes may be focused on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but for a handful of Tri-City athletes there is one competition that is even more important.
The BC Winter Games kickoff on Thursday and a large contingent of local athletes are busy preparing for this weekend's schedule of events. Three athletes from the Coquitlam Skating Club will be heading to Mission, some of who will get their first taste of serious competition, said club coach Bruno Delmaestro.
"It is kind of like a mini-Olympic Games," said Delmaestro, who coaches the club along with Kelly Champagne. "It gives the kids a good flavour of a major event."
Alexandra Canning is one skater that will be attending this week's figure skating event, fresh off a recent win in the juvenile ladies championship.
The 14-year-old recently moved up to the pre-novice category and Delmaestro said the event will be an opportunity for her to "get her feet wet" at a new level.
Another skater, Cayden McKenzie-Cook, will compete in the juvenile figure skating category. He recently took third place at the B.C. championships.
Kayla Sullivan is another Coquitlam figure skater that will be competing this week. The 12-year-old athlete has been having a strong season, according to Delmaestro, after winning fourth at the B.C. championship and second place at a recent juvenile event.
"She is another very good skater," he said. "She has been having a great year."
Benjamin Papp, a member of the Coquitlam Skating Club, was also expected to attend this week's Games. But a slight fracture in his foot has sidelined the 14-year-old, who recently won a provincial championship in the pre-novice men's category.
"They are all really great kids," Delmaestro said. "To be selected for the BC Winter Games is pretty prestigious."
Competitors in the juvenile category are expected to perform one program, while skaters like Canning skate two programs.
The athletes will stay in dormitories and eat all their meals together, giving them an opportunity to see what competition is like without parents and coaches in toe.
"They have to stand on their own two feet," Delmaestro said. "It is a really good experience for them."
ALL EYES ON THE OYMPICS
While Coquitlam Skating Club coach Bruno Delmaestro has been busy prepping his athletes for this week's BC Winter Games, he is also keeping an eye on Olympic developments in Sochi, Russia.
He was particularly pleased to see Kevin Reynolds, a Coquitlam skater that Delmaestro once coached, take home a silver medal for Canada in the team figure skater event last week.
"In the team event, he was absolutely fabulous," he said. "I am very proud of him."
He added that the Olympian was a dedicated athlete, who works incredibly hard and "pushes the bar in our sport." The 23-year-old's accomplishments in Sochi shows that the Coquitlam Skating Club can produce international-calibre skaters, Delmaestro said.
While Reynolds took silver in the team event last week, he struggled in during his short program a few days later, where he finished in 17th place with a score of 68.76.