Newcomer youth in Surrey got some tips from Olympic long-distance runner Natasha Wodak at Green Timbers Park during the finale event of DIVERSEyouth’s Run 5K program, planned in partnership with SportMedBC.
The Surrey-born Wodak placed 13th in the marathon at the recent Tokyo Olympics, becoming the second-fastest female marathoner in Canadian history.
At Green Timbers Park on Monday, Aug. 30, she surprised local immigrant and refugee youth with a visit and warm-up lesson, for an event they’d been training for since June 21.
Wodak told them about growing up in Surrey.
“I ran track and cross country and played soccer and that’s what I was doing instead of what my friends were doing,” she said. “I was lucky enough that sport got me a full scholarship at SFU. I was able to play sports there and get a full education after high school,” she said.
“It’s so important to be involved in sport,” Wodak added.
“The most important thing that I took away from running was I had so much fun and got to meet so many people and make new friendships that have lasted a lifetime. It’s awesome that you are all out here doing this.”
DIVERSEyouth is DIVERSEcity’s “signature” program for helping immigrant and refugee youth 13 to 18 years old in their settlement journey in Canada. With workshops, arts and exercise programs, the goal is to empower youth with leadership skills, confidence, goals and new friendships, according to the organization.
More program details are posted to dcrs.ca, or call 604-547-1317.
Garrison Duke, a DIVERSEcity director, thanked Natasha and the SportMedBC team for their participation.
“We’re so proud of the work done by DIVERSEyouth and SportMedBC,” Duke said. “What a great program. It gets you active and helps you even with your homework. Sports has meant a lot to me, growing up in a rough neighbourhood in Toronto. But sports kept us out of trouble. It kept our imagination going and you realized that anything is possible,” he said.
“So, we’re happy to build your confidence and learn from you and you learn from each other, and have that peer support. And you get to be with an Olympian and all these great trainers (from SportMedBC).”
Wodak’s biography is posted on olympic.ca, the Canadian Olympic team’s website.
Raised in Surrey, the 39-year-old Wodak now lives in North Vancouver.