A dedicate local triathlon coach received provincial honours as a community builder for her exceptional coaching and energetic commitment to the sport and its athletes.
Crystal Thomas not only organizes a qualifying race and coordinates the northwest triathlon team for BC Summer Games, but she also searches out youth who might enjoy triathlon and dedicates her free time to help them train.
“Crystal is passionate about triathlon and is equally caring about the youth she coaches,” said Heather Kurisu who nominated Thomas for the Triathlon BC award.
As a swim coach for the Terrace Bluebacks, Thomas dedicates free time to run triathlon on the side, which runs May to July. With the sport being little known in the north, she encourages her athletes to share their stories and to help coach younger athletes.
But it was more than her volunteering that earned her the award, said Emily Vickery from Triathlon B.C.
“What made her stand out… was that she does a lot of work that goes beyond just sports,” Vickery said. “[She is] using sport to transform and work with kids and build character.”
That was exactly what stood out to parent Heather Kurisu and her son Renzo Zanardo when he took part in triathlon.
“Crystal isn’t focused solely on their physical best, but is sincerely interested in the athletes’ emotional well being,” said Kurisu. “She connects easily with the athletes and finds what motivates them in an effort to bring out their best.”
Kurisu says that the passion Thomas invigorates and energizes everyone around her.
“Crystal’s energy and positive outlook is infectious,” she said, noting that even people outside of triathlon enjoy volunteering for the events she organizes.
Bluebacks swim coach Mike Christensen agreed.
“She has a real passion for life and the community,” he said. “When she does an event, people are like, ‘yeah, I’ll help out,’ because she has this infectious energy, and you just want to be around her.”
Christensen said Thomas not only draws out volunteers, but also gets her athletes excited to work hard through her energetic and positive outlook.
“One of the games she does with the kids is called the torture game, and the kids are actually extremely excited about it because she makes it so much fun,” he said, explaining that the game includes hard exercises like push ups and crab walks.
“She just has a way to make it fun,” he said.
The community builder award came from Triathlon BC, honouring her for her coaching and volunteer work, but also for how she has developed the sport in the north.
Triathlon was first introduced here in 1983 by Ray Warner, but dropped off for a number of years before Thomas revived it around the year 2000.
She started the Barkman Triathlon for adults at first, and then the youth program shortly after. Eventually the Barkman dropped off, but she has run the youth program ever since, organizing the Kermode Kids Triathlon for northern youth every year.
She is also the zone representative for the northwest team in the BC Summer Games, coordinating and coaching the team every year.