After a year-long delay due to COVID-19 – and with pandemic concerns still top of mind in the host country – the Summer Olympics are finally set to kick off this week, and a handful of Surrey and White Rock athletes will be front and centre.
Official opening ceremonies of the Tokyo-hosted Games are set for Friday, July 23, but some events – including women’s softball – actually begin early. Team Canada’s softball team – which boasts a handful of Semiahmoo Peninsula-connected players – hit the field Wednesday against Mexico.
The Canadian softball squad features former White Rock Renegades Sara Groenewegen, Danielle Lawrie, Lauren Regula and Larissa Franklin, as well as Delta’s Kelsey Harshman, and a host of other players who, while they may not be from South Surrey/White Rock, will be familiar to longtime patrons of the Canada Cup, held annually (in non-pandemic years) at Softball City.
Softball may be the first event out of the gate, but it’s far from the only sport that will feature local talent. Skateboarding makes its debut at these Olympics, and White Rock’s Andy Anderson will compete in the park event, bringing to the world stage what the Canadian Olympic team calls a “unique style and deep bag of tricks.”
Anderson’s event is scheduled for Aug. 5.
Elgin Park Secondary graduate Luc Bruchet will also compete for Canada, making his second Olympic appearance. Bruchet – who debuted at the 2016 Rio Games – will run the 5,000-m in Tokyo. That event doesn’t hit the track until closer to the end of the Olympics; it’s set for Aug. 6.
Other Surrey athletes who will be on the world stage over the next few weeks include long-jumper Christabel Nettey, who, like Bruchet, will be making her second Olympic appearance. The multiple-time national champion – who also won Commonwealth Games gold in 2018 – will compete in long jump on Aug. 3.
On the BMX track, 23-year-old Surrey-born Drew Mechielsen, who now lives in Langley, will make her Olympic debut this summer; various BMX events are set from July 29 through Aug. 1. Another Olympian with ties to both Langley and South Surrey is Djanjo Lovett, who now lives and trains in Ontario. Lovett, 29, will be making his Olympic debut in the men’s high jump, which is scheduled for Aug. 1.
Surrey’s Amar Dhesi will also be competing, in men’s wrestling. The Oregon State University grad will compete in the 125-kg freestyle division, which is planned for Aug. 6.
Gymnast Shallon Olsen will also be in Tokyo, competing in artistic gymnastics. The 21-year-old will be making her second Olympic appearance, having also competed in Rio in 2016 as a teenager.
Other Olympians with local ties include Surrey’s Sukhi Panesar (field hockey); Surrey-born Kim Gaucher (basketball), who now lives in Mission; Cloverdale’s Hillary Janssen (rowing) and Hayley McKelver (rowing), who was born in Surrey and now resides in Montreal.