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Mission accomplished

Mission Councillor Jenny Stevens presents the gold medal to Matthew Norris, a member of the Fraser Valley Zone 3 team on Sunday during the BC Winter Games finals. - Alan Bailward photo
Mission Councillor Jenny Stevens presents the gold medal to Matthew Norris, a member of the Fraser Valley Zone 3 team on Sunday during the BC Winter Games finals.
— image credit: Alan Bailward photo

Thousands of people worked together last week to make Mission shine through the 2014 B.C. Winter Games.

In a word, Games president Brian Antonson described the efforts as "amazing."

He was impressed with the volunteers, the athletes and how the major event came together.

Five Mission athletes competed at the Games, and all five climbed the podium at least once.

Short track speed skater Janie Green made a huge medal haul in the U14 girls division, including three gold (400-metre race 2, 200m pursuit, 2000m mixed relay), one silver (3000m points race) and two bronze (400m race 1, 1500m).

Fellow Mission speed skaters Shivani Bahadur (U14 2000m mixed relay) and Adam Holtby (U16 3000m mixed relay) both earned silver medals in relay events.

In gymnastics action at Mission Secondary, Tamara Skulstad excelled, winning the all-around silver medal in Level 4 along with gold on the vault and silver on the floor. Kristofer Unipan helped the Fraser Valley boys gymnastics squad win bronze in the team event.

Antonson praised the directors for exceeding his expectations in their duties, and pointed to chef Peter Bucher as an example of someone who went beyond his responsibilities.

Antonson had heard compliments about the food all weekend and commended the chef the morning after the competitions ended.

"He focused on good solid meals and made sure the kids had the proper nutrition," Antonson said.

Antonson was a part of the planning committee for two years.

"I didn't sign up for an easy two years, but I don't think any of us knew how hard it would be," shared Antonson. "Everyone rolled up their sleeves."

If there were lessons to be learned, they were learned quickly, said Antonson, who noted the experience taught him many things, including how to work with volunteers.

There were B plans and C plans developed for some sports like skiing, but in the end, no one could plan for the weather. The alpine skiing competition was cut short Saturday because of the heavy snowfall at Hemlock and organizers worked hard to prepare the course for Sunday.

All the planning and preparations paid off, said Antonson.

More than 1,000 people braved the cold temperatures and attended the opening ceremonies at Mission Raceway Park Thursday night, and attendance at sporting event venues were impressive. Some facilities were at capacity and organizers were only letting spectators in when others left.

Antonson visited every venue in Mission and watched as many sports as he had time for. He was impressed by the athleticism and was pleased the kids had smiles on their faces.

One of the moments he'll always remember is looking down the hallway of one of the schools and seeing two girls walking on their hands and chatting.

Some athletes made their way home after their competition was over, but most stayed until after the closing ceremony, which took place Sunday afternoon. A volunteer appreciation event was held later in the day, with about 500 of the 2,000 individuals who helped out making an appearance.

The snow deterred many people, suggested Antonson, who breathed a sigh of relief shortly after midnight when the last plane taking athletes home took off from Vancouver International Airport.

Mission cannot thank the volunteers enough, said Mayor Ted Adlem, praising the board of directors for their efforts.

There will be a special segment dedicated to Winter Games volunteers at this year's Community Service Awards ceremony on May 31, and Adlem will be meeting with Antonson later this week to discuss other ways to recognize what the group accomplished.

One of the volunteers, former Mission mayor James Atebe, who served as a medal presenter and sergeant-at-arms of the Games, was "privileged and honoured" to be invited back to participate.

Atebe was mayor in 2009 when Mission put in a bid to host the 2014 Winter Games. The community had hosted a number of regional championships and needed another challenge, Atebe explained.

Two other goals he envisioned at the time were providing a forum to inspire youth and improving the volunteer base in Mission.

"I felt these Games also showcased Mission's civic pride and community spirit," said Atebe.

After all the invoices are submitted and bills are paid, any remaining money left in the budget will be splitĀ  between the BC Games Society for future events, and Mission to build a Games legacy. A committee will be formed this spring to come up with suggestions for the legacy project, but regardless of what that project will be, one of the lasting legacies is the spirit of volunteerism, said Antonson.

"A lot of people had fun, a lot had a good experience giving back."

The local economic impact from the four-day event will not be known until later this year when the results of a study on the economic spinoff is released.

"They (the Games society) do this every few years," Antonson explained, adding part of the study is based on street interviews with people attending the games.

He also noted the economic spinoff from the 2008 B.C. Winter Games in the Kimberley-Cranbrook area was $1.8 million.

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