From left, Surrey-area athletes Uyi Ologhola, Kiera Van Ryk, Jasneet Nijjar and Lynn Kanuka are among Sport BC Athlete of the Year award winners this year. (submitted/file photos)

Surrey athletes, coach shine during delayed Sport BC Athlete of the Year awards

'Virtual video' ceremony Thursday recognized the 2020 award winners

  • Mar. 25, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Three Surrey-area athletes and a coach were among award winners during a COVID-delayed ceremony celebrating B.C.’s best in amateur sport.

Sport BC’s 54th Athlete of the Year Awards event was originally scheduled to take place in March 2020 at Vancouver Convention Centre, but the pandemic postponed those plans.

Instead, more than a year later, the organization hosted a pre-recorded “virtual video event” Thursday evening (March 25) to recognize the 2020 award winners, with a Scott Russell-hosted broadcast on

“We were hoping that we could have an event in person by now, but have decided to have an online session instead,” explained Allison Mailer, Sport BC’s communication manager.

The award finalists, announced in January 2020 and posted to, represent 20 sports in 24 cities and towns across B.C., including athletes, coaches, teams and officials.

The 100-minute ceremony can now be watched on Sport BC’s YouTube channel.

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Among the 2020 award winners, for achievements during the 2019 calendar year, are Surrey teens nominated in the two high school categories. Track star Jasneet Nijjar was named High School Female Athlete of the Year, and Uyi Ologhola earned the High School Male Athlete of the Year award.

Running coach Lynn Kanuka is Sport BC’s Female Coach of the Year, and volleyball player Kiera Van Ryk won University Athlete of the Year honours as leader of the UBC Thunderbirds womens volleyball squad, which was named Team of the Year.

Nijjar, as a Grade 12 student at Queen Elizabeth Secondary, had a record-setting year on the track in 2019. After recovering from a hamstring injury, she led the 2019 BC High School Track & Field Championships as champ in the 100m, 200m, and 100m hurdles, and was named outstanding athlete of the springtime meet. She’s now with the Washington State Cougars track team.

Ologhola, a standout athlete at Holy Cross Regional High School, has excelled in both basketball and football in recent years. Now with UBC Thunderbirds, he won the AA football provincial defensive player of the year award in 2019, along with Fraser Valley basketball MVP honours, among others. “The Crusader is a model of hard work and battling adversity (who) plays to the best of his ability in both football and basketball,” award presenters said. “His ability to deal with the personal loss of his mother’s passing and continue to be an outstanding student-athlete and leader is inspiring.”

In 2019, Van Ryk enjoyed a record-setting year on volleyball courts near and far. The outside hitter, a Surrey Christian School grad, was named the top female university athlete in Canada and also won the U SPORTS Lieutenant Governor Athletic Award after leading UBC to the 2019 U SPORTS women’s volleyball championship. A member of Canada’s senior national women’s team, Van Ryk went pro in the summer of 2019 after signing with Volley Bergamo of Italy’s Serie A1 league.

• RELATED STORY, from June 2020: Home from Italy, Surrey volleyball player Kiera Van Ryk set for action with national team.

Van Ryk’s 2019 championship-winning UBC team includes Earl Marriott Secondary grads Tessa Davis and Danika Cowie, former Seaquam Secondary standout Brynn Pasin and Pacific Academy grad Gabrielle Attieh. “The Thunderbirds had one of the youngest, most inexperienced rosters in all of U SPORTS and had a 0-3 season start to the Canada West season,” Sport BC award presenters noted. “After this tough start, they began climbing the ladder finishing the regular season 15-9 and earning a berth at the national championship tournament. The team grew together throughout the course of the season, never doubting themselves to win the U SPORTS National Championships.”

Coach Kanuka, a White Rock resident, is a two-time Olympian on the track, former Canadian record holder and Olympic bronze medalist. The 2019 BC Athletics Team head coach and Canadian cross-country national team coach, she encourages new runners in the SportMed BC Sun Run in-training program. “She takes her wealth of experience and knowledge combined with her passion for the sport into her coaching career,” award presenters said. “Lynn has been coaching Natasha Wodak to numerous national teams and international medals. In addition to coaching Natasha, Lynn has also coached a group of developing athletes including Tyler Wilson, a talented and accomplished young race walker.”

The Sport BC award finalists were nominated by their provincial or multi-sport organization, high school, college or university. The awards selection committee was chaired by former BCTV sportscaster Bernie Pascall.

On Thursday, a live “Warm-Up” on Zoom involved a Chefs Plate cooking/trivia session with pre-show host Perry Solkowski, football great Geroy Simon, Paralympic champ Michelle Stilwell, Vancouver Whitecaps ambassador Carl Valentine and Sport BC’s Allison Mailer.

This year’s Sport BC Athlete of the Year award winners are:

Athlete with a Disability: Nathan Reich (Victoria), athletics

College Athlete: Rachel Beauchamp (Douglas), basketball

Female Coach: Lynn Kanuka (Surrey), athletics

Male Coach: Chris Macdonald (Vancouver), golf

High School Female Athlete: Jasneet Nijjar (Queen Elizabeth), athletics

High School Male Athlete: Uyi Ologhola (Holy Cross), basketball/football

Junior Female Athlete: Camryn Rogers (Richmond), athletics

Junior Male Athlete: Carter Woods (Cumberland), mountain biking

Senior Female Athlete: Rachel Cliff (Vancouver), athletics

Senior Male Athlete: Scott Tupper (Vancouver), field hockey

University Athlete: Kiera Van Ryk (UBC), volleyball

Team: UBC Women (Vancouver), volleyball

Master Athlete: Cathy Zeglinski (Whistler), mountain biking

Official: Jeff Thomson (Vancouver), gymnastics

Best of BC Award: Vasek Pospisil, tennis

KidSport BC Community Champion: Sanjeet Sadana (Richmond)

Harry Jerome Comeback Athlete: Stephane Tanguay, SFU football

Daryl Thompson Lifetime Achievement: Dianne Barker (Kamloops), curling

In Her Footsteps: Debbie Cheong (Delta), osteofit; Loreen Barnett (North Vancouver), triathlon; Diana Barkley (White Rock), figure skating, and Dr. Patricia Vertinsky (Vancouver), sport researcher

Bobbie Steen Foundation Legacy: Emma Courtney (North Vancouver), outdoor recreation, for 2019, and Meghan Hebert (Whistler), snowboard, for 2020.

Dozens of volunteers were also given Presidents Awards for their work in B.C.

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