Several local students are representing the province on a national level at the Canada Winter Games this year.
Alpine skiers Lori Steppler, Jared Friesen and Karly Friesen from Miami will be competing at the games in Red Deer, which run until March 3.
“I’m very excited about it,” Steppler said. “We’ve been working really hard over the past few years, me and my team, and I’m just very excited about it.”
Steppler said she and other competitors did time trials to see if they made it to the games, and she said the week long wait to get those results was intense.
“I’m excited,” Jared Friesen agreed. “It’s a great opportunity. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while now.”
Friesen said he has been skiing since he was 18 months old. After his brother tried hockey and didn’t like it, his parents let them try out skiing and he has never looked back.
“I’ve always enjoyed it,” he said. “There’s lots to do. It’s pretty enjoyable, it’s relaxing.”
Steppler has been skiing since she was 7 or 8, and her whole family is into the sport. “I was on the La Riviere Ski Club just learning how to ski for a while but not really competitive until the past two years,” she said. “The Friesens actually got me into racing, they convinced me to start it. I did pretty well on my first race and from then I’ve been racing.”
The three athletes are no strangers to this level of competition, as the trio went to the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games. Both Jared and Steppler medaled at the event.
“I was going crazy at that moment,” Steppler said. “I was very happy. The day before I crashed in my race and I was pretty disappointed about that, but then I got the medal the next day and I was very happy.”
“It was fun,” Friesen added. “It was a good opportunity and experience.”
To prepare for the games, the athletes have been training hard. “It’s been pretty intense all of the winters that I’ve ever raced, but this year is definitely much more intense,” Steppler said. “We train every weekend unless it’s too cold and if there’s school off on Fridays, and some days we miss school on Fridays to go up. It’s usually two or three days of training each weekend.”
The road to the Games hasn’t always been an easy one. A few weekends ago Friesen’s ski team had their trailer broken into in Drumheller and five pairs of skis, a ski bag and two pairs of poles were stolen. One pair of skis was Friesen’s.
“It was a little annoying because we couldn’t just wait to see if they could find the skis,” he said. “We needed them for training with the Games in two and a half weeks, so we had to go out and get new skis.”
The transmission on their van also went during the drive home. “That trip was a little rough,” he said.
The games feature 19 sports, over 150 events and 3,600 athletes from across the country, and the event is expected to draw in over 20,000 visitors.