The B.C. Winter Games is a golden memory for Black Jack cross-country skier Rebecca Reid, and one that Trail’s Daniel Merlo hopes to replicate at the 2012 Winter Games in Vernon when it starts Thursday.
Reid is an elite skier who trains with the Alberta World Cup Academy in Canmore, Alta. and earlier this month, the 19-year-old won gold at the Eastern Canadian Championships in Quebec and was the third overall junior in the mini-tour.
But when Reid was a shy 13-year-old Black Jack skier, she qualified for the Greater Trail B.C. Winter Games in 2006. Unsure how she would do against the province’s best racers, Reid was nervous going into the games but skiing at her home course in Rossland brought a measure of comfort and familiarity.
“That was my first “Games” experience,” said Reid. “It was the first time I’d been to an opening and closing ceremonies, so it was a really valuable experience.”
Reid raced to gold and two silver medals proving she was indeed one of the province’s elite skiers. Her grandfather was also the medal presenter, which made it even more special, said Reid.
The B.C. Winter Games was a launching pad for the Rossland native, and it more than fueled her competitive drive to become not only one of B.C.’s best skiers but also established her goal to be among the elite in Canada and the world.
By 2008, Reid had a juvenile gold medal at the Canadian nationals.
In 2010 she not only became one of the youngest Canadian women ever to compete in a World Cup race but she also set the tracks for the world’s best as a forerunner at the Winter Olympics in Whistler.
In 2011 she was on the podium again accepting a gold medal at the Canada Winter Games in Nova Scotia.
But she still links many of her highlights back to her moment on the provincial stage in 2006.
“I’ve gone on to do national championships and world championships but it was kind of nice to be in an environment where you have all the sports together,” said Reid. “It (the Winter Games) was a mini-Olympics experience.”
Merlo meanwhile has been on a hot streak in B.C. Cup races this season and will face roughly the same competition in the Winter Games.
“Last year I didn’t really do as well as this year, I think my best I did was 15th,” said Merlo.
The 14-year-old Black Jack skier captured gold at the provincials in Salmon Arm Sunday, and a bronze at the Western Canadians and gold and silver at the B.C. Cup races in Prince George last month.
“It’s a pretty good season so far,” said Merlo. “I’d like to win or at least podium (at the games).”
Merlo like Reid before him is excelling on the provincial stage and he along with fellow Black Jack skiers Sage Robine and Allie Stanley of Rossland look to follow in Reid’s successful ski tracks at the B.C. Winter Games and even further down the track.
“I think if I just keep doing what I’ve been doing now, just do well in races and training, everything else will come,” said Merlo.
The B.C. Winter Games run Feb. 23 to 26 in Vernon.