North Okanagan flavour at Games

Glenn Bond

Steve Witvoet will be rubbing shoulders with the world’s best long-track speed skaters at the Vancouver Olympics.

The Vernon physiotherapist will also be rubbing calfs, quads and thighs to help athletes prepare to be at their best for the competition at the Richmond Olympic Oval (ROO).

“My role is to provide physiotherapy care and first responder emergency care on-ice for the athletes,” said Witvoet, one of many North Okanagan volunteers helping out in Vancouver and Whistler for the Olympics, which kick off today.

“I have direct contact with the athletes. I’m trying to get them to perform at their highest level.”

An associate at Vernon’s North End Spine and Sports, Witvoet is using his Olympic volunteering experience towards his diploma to become a registered sports physiotherapist.

Witvoet, married with two young kids, all of whom will be joining him in Vancouver for his only two days off during the Games, has volunteered with the Vernon Royals senior men’s lacrosse team, Vernon Minor Hockey’s Tier 1 midget squad and the 2008 Ford Women’s World Curling Championships.

“This is my first Olympics, and, by far, it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever been involved with,” said Witvoet, who began his volunteer process by applying two years ago. “People put in their names, then went through more steps as the Games got closer, things like telephone interview. I was onsite for orientation last week.”

Witvoet will see all of the long-track speed skating at the ROO, and plans to take in women’s hockey and men’s curling with his family.

n Zane Klym also got an up-close look at the ROO this week, and the security involved with the Olympics.

The Vernon Canadian Mental Health Employee is also getting a very private yet mandatory look at some of the athletes as he volunteers with anti-doping.

“I’ve been doing some drug testing at the ROO, starting with the speed skaters, then I’m off to Vancouver and the athletes’ village,” said Klym. “They’ve got us bouncing around to different venues.”

Klym, who will be in the Lower Mainland for a full month conducting anti-doping tests, got involved in the procedure through his general practitioner about 12 years ago.

“He asked me if I wanted to come along as a chaperone, which means I would witness the passing of an athlete’s sample, and it kind of evolved from there,” said Klym, who is working hard to cope with the pain of being away from his five-month-old son, Robert Andrew, and partner, Jill, for the first time. “I’ve done the tests, written exams, practical exams and it just kind of fell into my lap.”

What has surprised Klym the most so far into his Olympic gig is the level of security.

“Just trying to get into the building, we were diverted as the roads are already closed,” he said. “We had a road check to make sure our parking pass is valid, we go another 400 yards and there’s an RCMP car with lights flashing. They check to make sure our identification and accreditation is valid. Once verified, we get another security check.”

n Speaking of accreditation, Vernon’s Melanie Tighe-Lovsin has the volunteer job of checking accreditation of athletes, media and FIS (skiing) officials at the start gate area at ski events on West Vancouver’s Cypress Mountain.

In a text message Tuesday, Tighe-Lovsin got her first on-site look at the mountain which will host freestyle skiing and snowboard events without a great deal of snow.

“It’s not to worry, they have enough snow and they have dry ice underneath the snow to keep it cold,” wrote Tighe-Lovsin, who applied to be a volunteer a couple of years ago.

Tighe-Lovsin spent part of the week taking in the Olympic atmosphere.

“I spent Monday walking around downtown, checked out the various sites and talked to people,” she said. “The mood over everyone is great. Lots of excitement, people are friendly. I met volunteers from Ontario and even Switzerland.

“I met locals who said they were not excited before, but they are now. There are many people walking around with Olympic ID, including lots of media and RCMP, and volunteers in their turquoise outfits.”

Now, as she prepares to help out with the competition, Tighe-Lovsin said the focus is all on the athletes.

“They have trained hard, they are committed to their sport, I wish them all success,” she said. “This is such a thrill to be here.”

n Armstrong city councillor Ryan Nitchie is blogging his Olympic experience as a volunteer with event services as a host at the athletes’ village.

“The Skytrain ride (for my first shift) was my first experience in public wearing the bright blue volunteer suit,” wrote Nitchie. “The reception I received on the Skytrain ride was wonderful. Complete strangers coming up to me and asking me questions about what I was doing, where I was volunteering.

“There certainly was an air of excitement everywhere down here.”

Nitchie, an Askew’s Foods employee and executive member with the senior lacrosse Armstrong Shamrocks, has also been people-watching.

“I met (Canadian gold medal figure skater hopeful) Patrick Chan yesterday,” he wrote. “I met the Canadian women’s curling team, (freestyle skier medal hopeful) Jennifer Heil, (men’s downhill skier) Manny Osborne-Paradis and a lot of Europeans that I am sure are celebs but I don’t know who they are.”

n As Silver Star Mountain Resort’s nordic director, Glenn Bond had a chance to watch Olympic-bound cross-country skiers and biathletes prepare for the Games as they trained at the resort.

Now, he’ll be that much closer to the skiers, working as a volunteer for Atomic International Race Service.

“I will be helping the Atomic (brand name) athletes from all nations test their skis, and ensure they are confident with their equipment before they hit the start line,” said Bond. “It is kind of like being in the pit crew of NASCAR. Everything happens fast and it must be perfect.”

Bond is the only North American on Atomic’s service team of 10. The other members are from Austria (where the skis are made), Norway and Germany.

“I’ve worked with Atomic at the World Cup at Sovereign Lake in 2005, Canmore World Cup in 2008 and Whistler World Cup 2009,” said Bond. “That experience opened the door for me to be invited to work with Atomic at the Olympics.”

Bond will also use the opportunity to promote Silver Star as 12,000 spectators per day will be at the Whistler Olympic Park.

n Other North Okanagan volunteers at the Olympics include Barbara Harris, JC Colvin, Lois Dawson, Peggy Olafson, Wayne Laface, Dave Merklinger, Bill Drake and David and Mary-Jo O’Keefe.