Vernon’s rich history of athletic excellence got even richer as the Tim Hortons athletic awards were handed out in the media room at Kal Tire Place Tuesday night.
Savannah King just wrapped up one of the most dominating distance swim careers in Canadian university history and capped it off by being named the Athlete of the Year.
“This is very special. To move away from your hometown and still have people follow you and recognize you like this means a lot to me,” said King, who ruled the lengths for the UBC Thunderbirds.
King finished as a four-time Canadian Interuniversity Sport champion and a five-time Canada West champion. She was named four-time Canada West Swimmer of the Year and two-time CIS Swimmer of the Year. She won 20 gold medals at the conference level. In national meets she won 10 golds and 20 medals overall. She is a multiple record holder and Grand Slam champion in both the 400-metre and 800-metre freestyle. King recently competed for Canada in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
On top of all that, she was named co-winner of the May Brown Trophy as UBC’s Graduating Female Athlete of the Year.
“The May Brown award was something I always wanted to win, but this one ranks pretty high,” said King. “My heart is always in Vernon, it’s always going to be my hometown. To win an award like this from the Okanagan is huge.”
King spends her time back in Vancouver, where she is swimming and teaching at the UBC Aquatic Centre.
“I probably spend more time at the pool now than I did when I was in school,” joked King.
With her eligibility completed, King has her sights set on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
When she isn’t training she coaches masters and club teams.
The two-time defending B.C. men’s curling champions were recognized as Team of the Year.
For Jim Cotter, it was the second time his rink captured the award. His rink previously won in 2012.
The team is anchored by a few Vernon products in third Ryan Kuhn and second Rick Sawatsky.
“The North Okanagan produces a lot of great teams, we’re honoured to be named one of them,” said rink skip Cotter. “This award means a lot.”
Teammates Tyrel Griffith and Kuhn were not in attendance.
“I think we are going to cut this award into four pieces,” joked Cotter, as he thought of ways to share the award with his crew.
Cotter’s rink finished 6-5 at the Tim Hortons Brier Canadian Men’s Curling Championship last March in Calgary.
“The Brier is tough, we go out there and perform and hopefully we get hot at the right time,” said Sawatsky.
Sawatsky’s family moved to Vernon when he was two and he stayed until 2000. Now living in Kelowna, he enjoys off-ice activities before the curling season ramps up again.
“I do a lot of training; hot yoga and I find golf to be a great teacher for mental toughness,” said Sawatsky. “We will meet up as a team about once a month, catch up and maybe talk strategy.”
The 2016 Brier will take place in Ottawa.
The Leadership in Sport award went to Ken Gaskell for his work with the Silver Star Freestyle Ski Club.
His daughter, Elena, is a freestyle skier and was nominated for Athlete of the Year after winning gold in slopestyle skiing and big air at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George.
“It would have been nice for both of us to win,” said Ken. “Unfortunately this was our only shot. I don’t see myself winning this again, but hopefully she gets hers one day.”
Gaskell was instrumental in bringing in an air bag to Silver Star for the freestyle team to practice on. It gives them opportunities to test out new tricks safely before tackling them on snow.
He was the event chairman for the Canadian Junior Freestyle Skiing Championships at Silver Star this winter.
“We think Silver Star is the place to be for freestyle athletes,” said Gaskell. “Pro skiers like Noah Morrison, T.J. Schiller, Joe Schuster, Josh Bibby and Justin Dorey have came through the Silver Star program.”
As for this year, Gaskell is looking to improve the club’s mogul runs and continues to work on developing its coaches.