Over the next two issues, the Penticton Western News will reel off the sports newsmakers of the year.
We kick off with Jeff Symonds winning the debut of Challenge Penticton on Aug. 25.
Bruised and bloodied, Jeff Symonds’ injuries didn’t dampen his celebration of his history-making win at the inaugural Challenge Penticton Canada race.
Fists raised and head thrown back, the young, professional Peach City triathlete shouted in joy as he danced the final 30 metres to the finish line in a time of eight hours, 29 minutes and 57 seconds.
Scott DeFilippis of Normandy Beach, N.J., was a distant second, nearly 15 minutes back.
Symonds, competing in only his second long-distance triathlon, suffered serious scrapes to his hands, arms and legs after crashing his bicycle on a steep hill near Yellow Lake. The 27-year-old later admitted he had concerns about finishing the race but somehow found the will to continue.
“If you lose your concentration, even for a moment, it can be all over, so I was just glad to get up and back on the bike,” he said.
“It just made it that much more painful and that much more tougher, but it also made it that much more rewarding. I’m never going to forget this one, that’s for sure.
“I grew up watching the race but I never dreamed I would be in this position one day.
“I guess it shows that anything is possible.”
The winner also beat some big names in the sport, including four-time Challenge Roth and two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack.
McCormack was a second ahead of Symonds in the swim but did not complete the race. Symonds finished the 3.8-kilometre swim in 55 minutes, 37 seconds.
Sunday was also a special day for another hometown favourite, Jen Annett, competing in her first distance triathlon as a professional.
She wound up third (9:58:23) behind Karen Thibodeau (9:41:42) of Canmore, Alta., and winner Lester Carrie of Australia (9:27:26).
“I had to keep telling myself that it wasn’t any different (as a pro) because really at the end of the day it’s not,” said Annett who crossed the finish line with husband Jason and 15-month-old son Nixon. “I still had to race to my capabilities and not anybody else’s race.”
North Americans capture Continental Cup
Once Thomas Ulsrud of Norway hit the guard in the sixth end of the second skins game, Canada’s Craig Savill knew Team North America had won the 2013 World Financial Group Continental Cup on Jan. 13.
Immediately after, Savill sprinted off to the North American bench as the team began celebrating.
“We said if we win this thing I’m going straight to the bench and jumping in,” explained Savill, “someone better catch me. I was pretty happy. We got drilled last year so it was nice to get them back this year.”
Heading into the skins game of the Continental Cup, Team North America held a 26.5 to 18.5 advantage, though Team World still had a chance for a comeback with 30 points up for grab. While Team World scored eight skins to North America’s seven in the first game, the home side earned 10.5 skins to the World’s 4.5 for a final score of 37-23.
As Team North America celebrated with Savill in the bench, Glenn Howard performed a gunslinger routine that was replayed on the big screen. Kevin Martin, who was matched up against Scotland’s Eve Muirhead, was laughing at Howard’s theatrics as he prepared to deliver his next rock.
“That was good,” said Martin. “It’s sure good that he got that deuce because it’s never easy closing a team out. That was huge. We were all hoping he would make it and he did.”
2016 B.C. Winter Games coming to Penticton
In February 2016, the province’s best athletes look to shine in Penticton.
It was announced on Jan. 24 that the B.C. Winter Games are returning to the location that kicked off what has become a jumping-off point for elite athletes since the summer of 1978. Since then, Penticton hosted the winter games in 1990 and the summer games five years later.
Members from Fitkidz Gymnastics Club kicked off the announcement with moves that caught the attention of the crowd in attendance at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. They were joined by members of the Taneda Dojo and Penticton Judo Club who put on presentations to add an athletic element.
Retired Olympian Kristi Richards was on hand for the announcement and competed in the winter games in 1995 in Comox Valley.
“It was absolutely amazing,” said Richards to the crowd. “All of you kids who are aspiring to go to B.C. Games, or to Canada Games or the Olympics, I tell you it’s something so, so magical. When I walked into that gymnasium with all the festivities and the stage and the dancing, and the singing and everything, the whole opening games celebration was so unbelievably powerful for me as a kid. That was the spark. That was the thing that lifted me to new heights. I knew that I wanted to have that feeling again and again.”
Richards, an alumni of the Apex Freestyle Club, said that experience motivated her to eventually want to compete in the Olympics. She said the B.C. Games are a springboard for a young child.
“To be able to have this here, in Penticton, once again, it’s going to be so great for the whole community,” she continued.
Over 2,100 athletes, coaches and officials will participate in approximately 18 sports, Feb. 25 to 28, 2016, according to a release issued by B.C. Games.
Chuck Loewen, general manager of recreation and facilities for the City of Penticton, said they were contacted by Kelly Mann, president and CEO of the B.C. Games Society to start the process and schedule the games.
“We are receiving inquiries from various sport organizations who are eagerly anticipating and pre-planning their involvement in these games, and they and we at the city, are extremely excited about the prospects of beginning the process and putting on the best B.C. Winter Games in its history in 2016,” said Loewen.
Pinnacles teams in PCSL championships
Penticton’s under-21 Pinnacles ruled the Pacific Coast Soccer League’s Reserve division.
It’s a first in the Penticton Soccer Club’s history that the men’s and women’s teams won the championship in the same year.
Playing side by side at Town Centre West and East in Coquitlam, both clubs could hear the cheers from their respective fields on July 28.
“This year is special,” said Pinnacles Greenscape Landscaping women’s coach Ray Hintz, whose team edged the Mid Isle Highlanders 2-1 to bring home the Bill Gillespie Challenge Cup. “We have been there before. For some, it’s their third championship. This one is special because of all the stuff we had to go through.”
The main challenge was working different players into the lineup the entire year. Frustration was felt by the players and Hintz, who said it was one of his toughest seasons coaching at that level.
“We played with a lot of heart and determination. We had that will to win. The girls really wanted it this year. To prove everybody wrong.”
Along with winning the championship, Pinnacles defender Mila Miller was named tournament MVP. Captain Alana Parker said Miller’s performance was “amazing,” but added she always is.
The Tim Horton’s Pinnacles won the Challenge Cup for the first time in their seven seasons. After defeating Chilliwack 4-1, the Pinnacles doubled up Abbotsford Magnuson- Ford Mariners 4-2. Austin Jones, Mackenzie Rigg, Randy Hubber and Enzo Paul scored. Hubber buried the winner.
“I don’t think words can describe it really,” said Hubber of his winner. “After I scored I didn’t know what to do.”
Hubber, who finished second in league scoring with nine goals and was named Challenge Cup MVP, said they played well.
“We came into the game with the arrogance that we weren’t going to lose and that helped us a lot,” he said.
Pinnacles coach Paulo Araujo said his group played their best football of the year.
“They kept growing stronger as the season went,” said Araujo.
When asked what winning the championship meant, Araujo said it’s a “good feeling for a little town from the Okanagan to go down to the coast and put on a good show.”
“It shows that there is really good footballers here in the Okanagan,” said Araujo.
Penticton’s Ellis Andrews avoided the tragedy that struck the Boston Marathon when two bombs exploded near the finish line. Andrews, who completed the marathon in 3:36:39, was shaken up and described it as a “terrible situation.”
“We just missed it by 15 minutes,” said Andrews by phone from his hotel. “Thanks heavens. Close call.”
Andrew was staying at the Revere Hotel Boston Common, located six blocks away from the explosions.
“Just an awful thing and it’s certainly going to change all marathons around the world,” he said.
Asked about his emotions, Andrews said his heart rate went faster when he had heard more explosions could be expected. Andrews said bombs were set under the viewing area.
“Just as the people were about to cross the finish line, it went off,” he said. “People watching got the full blast of it. Some of the runners as well. A few minutes later another one went off. An awful thing to happen in a great, wonderful event and a fantastic city.
“We were fortunate we all came through the finish line within five minutes of each other,” said Andrews, who has participated in the Boston Marathon three times.