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Surrey Sports Museum dream for Ironman athlete who kick-started funding drive

The sports museum would be located in Downtown Surrey, where Elizabeth Model is CEO of business improvement association
Images on a website for the new Surrey Sports Museum Endowment Fund, on

An endowment fund aims to create a new Surrey Sports Museum, thanks to a launch donation from one very avid Ironman competitor.

The museum would “commemorate Surrey’s athletes who have demonstrated the mental fortitude and commitment to take their athletic performance to the highest level,” according to a news release from SurreyCares Community Foundation on Thursday (Sept. 23).

The foundation will steward the fund, which has been kick-started with $1,000 from Elizabeth Model as a gift after she completed her 100th Ironman triathlon.

The sports museum would be located in Downtown Surrey, where Model is CEO of the area’s business improvement association (BIA).

“The fund intends to showcase, profile and inspire athletes who have roots in Surrey. This may include developing a permanent exhibit space and exhibits in Surrey’s City Center,” says a post on a new website linked to, where donations are collected. The endowment fund goal is $100,000.

In 2018, Model was the first woman to compete in every Ironman race in the world. She has raced on every continent, and says she plans to continue racing at sites around the world.

• RELATED STORY: ‘Quite a journey’: 100th Ironman for triathlete with Surrey police, business connections.

A Burnaby resident, Model is also a Surrey Police Board member.

“Sport has the power to bring people together and celebrating the many exceptional athletes from Surrey is a great way to do just that,” Model said in Thursday’s news release.

“To mark my 100th Ironman race, I’m proud to partner with the SurreyCares Foundation to establish the Surrey Sports Museum Endowment Fund, through which we can inspire others to aim for exceptional goals.”

Christine Buttkus, executive director of SurreyCares Foundation, said the organization is excited to work with Model to establish Surrey Sports Museum Endowment Fund.

“The museum will showcase the many extraordinary sportspeople from Surrey and their achievements, which will ultimately bring the community closer together while celebrating the absolute best athletes Surrey has to offer,” Buttkus stated. “This gift will create a legacy for the future.”

• RELATED STORY: Olympics-bound Surrey gymnast Shallon Olsen enters sports hall of fame – in Coquitlam.

It’s not immediately clear whether Surrey Sports Museum would include a Surrey Sports Hall of Fame, an idea floated two years ago, at a 2019 meeting of Surrey’s Parks, Recreation & Culture Committee. City staff were asked to report back on a potential model for such a hall.

Other communities in Metro Vancouver have sports halls to honour athletes, builders and organizers.

“I fully support it, and it’s something that should be done,” Coun. Doug Elford, vice-chair of the committee, told the Now-Leader in 2019. “We have a rich sports history in Surrey, and there’s generational activity happening in a lot of different sports. There are just tremendous people, athletes and organizers, who deserve recognition like this. We have some great, great history that needs to be recognized.”

Coquitlam has a sports hall of fame, as do Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Delta.

Surrey’s notable athletes include Olympic wrestler Daniel Igali, NHL hockey players Brenden Dillon, Colin Fraser and Scott Hannan, baseball player Adam Loewen, soccer’s Sydney Leroux, football player Geroy Simon, pro wrestler John Tenta and rugby standout Kelly McCallum, among others.

“Every organization has some great people and history,” Elford said in 2019, “including Chuck Bailey and Orest Springenatic in baseball, and we’ve got NHL hockey stars who’ve come up, you know, and all the softball players and people like Rocky Rockwell in Cloverdale, one of the original rodeo founders. The list is big, it’s daunting, and a lot of names will come up in all the different sports.”

As for Model, she had planned to do her 100th Ironman triathlon in South Africa in March 2020, the month COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. The race was postponed, as was a race in Oklahoma two months later and other Ironman events.

This month, Model ended up completing her 100th race Sept. 12 at Ironman Wisconsin, in a time of 16 hours, 32 minutes and eight seconds.

“It’s been quite a journey,” Model said later. “I never started out thinking about numbers. It’s always been travel, keeping fit and meeting wonderful people along the road of explorations.”

An Ironman triathlon involves a 3.86-kilometre swim, a 180.25-kilometre bike ride and full 42.20-kilometre marathon run, completed in that order and without a break.

Since 2005, Model has been doing long-distance triathlons.

She wasn’t always an endurance athlete – far from it, in fact.

“I was very overweight in university, and I stopped weighing myself at 268 pounds, and I know I got up to about 280,” she recalled during an interview in 2018. “As a child I was very, very active, and between boarding school and university, I just packed on pounds, not being active enough. And when I graduated it was a case of, ‘Gosh, I’ve never weighed so much,’ and I just started being active again and eating right and not slumming around dormitories, and all the rest of it, and the weight just came off.”

Years later, around the time she hit age 40, and long after she entered the business world, Model found the energy to run a marathon, and “got hooked” on endurance racing. “I started in 2005 in Penticton, in August of that year,” Model said. “I was 46 at the time.”

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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