The lack of current pushing one way added an unexpected element for Hannah Stevens’ foray into BC Summer Games.
Stevens, an Oak Bay High student, enjoyed the venue, but sailing in Harrison Lake without the ocean current threw the seagoing sailor off-kilter for a bit.
“It cut a whole factor out when you were deciding where to go,” she said of her first time sailing sans current.
The Royal Victoria Yacht Club racer and her sailing partner Cameron Wallace – a Glenlyon Norfolk School student and fellow RVYC sailor – soared to gold in the Open 420 category.
Being the lone female standing on the podium was another first for the 16 year-old.
“It was definitely an interesting place to be because all of my friends were sailing in the female fleet. It was different for me because at the end I was the only girl on the podium. I was excited to be there, and was really happy to show them it could be done,” Hannah said. “It wasn’t the fact that I was the only girl. It was the fact that everyone around me was very good.”
The duo started sailing together at Monterey Middle School where they founded a sailing team.
“We both had taken summer courses for quite a while … our teacher said if it was something we were interested in we could start a team at the school,” she said. “We just kept going, things were working.”
While some of her peers from Victoria sailed in the laser category, a solo venture, she’s always enjoyed the partnership of the 420.
“I like to have a teammate there that I can bounce ideas off of,” Hannah said.
Living on the tip of Vancouver Island, surrounded by water and stunning visages, is only one reason she loves the sport.
“Sailing is one of those sports that doesn’t get a lot of recognition. It’s not looked at as a sport a lot of places, which means it’s not as popular as it should be, which I enjoy because it’s different,” Hannah said. “The community is really tight knit and you can go so many places in your life. It’s not something you have to drop … people from all over and all ages and all abilities can still sail. They’re always finding ways to integrate it into peoples lives.”
The BC Games was chief among the young athlete’s goals.
“It was cool to be in a place where it was full of athletes. Everybody had a sport and a job to do. everyone was there to compete, because they deserved to be there,” Hannah said. “You were there because you worked hard to get there.”
Now she plans to move up from the 420 to a 29er.
“They’re bigger, faster and there’s more of a fleet … I’m hoping to go to Canada Games next year. We’ll see how it goes moving up to the new boat, but that’s the plan at least.”
A large medal contingent came out of RVYC at the BC Summer Games. Gwyneth Green-Robertson and Faye Cheng finished second in Girls 420 while Abby Brown and Caitlyn Shum were third. Makena Shepard scored gold in the Girls Laser Radial. In the Boys/Girls Optimist Red Fleet Grace Poole finished first, Kelley Poole second and Trevor Davis third. MacKenna Renaud-Kehoe finished just out of medal range, fourth in Boys/Girls Optimist Red Fleet.
The Vancouver Island-Central Coast team finished first in the overall medal count. VICC earned a total of 62 golds, 43 silvers and 56 bronze for 161 overall. They beat out second place Fraser Valley, who won 48 gold, 53 silver and 36 bronze. Fraser River finished third overall, winning 51 gold, 45 silver and 34 bronze.
A trio of Oak Bay swimmers with Island Swimming Club were among those in the medal haul.
A deep love of the sport drives Mareya Valeva, 14, who led the group stepping onto the podium five times to claim three gold, one silver and a bronze medal.
“Just getting in the water, feeling it rush by, it doesn’t just relax you. It’s just you and yourself … you and your body and you’re trying to figure out what you can do and the best way to do it,” she said. “It’s also just a passion where you can have friends, although they may be from a different club or something you can grow great relationships and learn from each other.”
Mareya’s BC Games victories came in 200m backstroke, 200m butterfly and 100m butterfly, where she improved 18 seconds across those three events, moving from 11th to first in the 100m. Mareya and her three Zone 6 teammates also won the girls 200m medley relay.
Larry Yu, 14, claimed silver in 200m freestyle and placed fourth in 400 freestyle, finishing 18 seconds faster than his entry time. Aleks Frketic, 13, scored silver in 200m butterfly, dropping almost 10 seconds, and bronze in 400m individual medley, shaving 17 seconds off his time.
“The medals are a good big thing but personally I like the team spirit everyone had and the co-operation of teams,” said Mareya.
A pair of nicknames, including Larry the Legend, for the young silver medal winner are standout moments for the Oak Bay teen.
“My coach started chanting ‘Larry’ all the time and the whole pool would chant with him,” said Mareya, who counts Larry as one of her best friends at swimming. “He’s a really good mathematician and it started at our school and somehow spread to the pool.”
Mareya, who started competitive swimming at seven, developed her own team activity just after stepping to the top of the podium for her first gold.
“The first time I thought, ‘I’m off to a good start,’” she said. After that she started what became called the “Maria photo” (her name is actually pronounced Ma Ray Ah).
“I always asked everyone to come up on the podium with me. they deserve gold for their efforts,” she said. “The gold medal’s great for 30 seconds, … It’s more about the challenge of everyone being there and doing their best. Although you may have not got on the podium, it was all about the team effort.”
Sunshine and competition in an outdoor pool offered new experiences for the longtime swimmer who strives to reach Olympic heights.
“Overall it was a great experience. If a person hasn’t been to the BC Games, they should attend,” she said. “It just really opens up your connection with people but also it’s a great experience to experience an Olympic-like event.”