New members for sports hall

Josh Dueck, Drew Neilson and John Topping named to the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame

Drew Neilson is being inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame along with John Topping and Josh Dueck.

Drew Neilson is being inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame along with John Topping and Josh Dueck.

A pair of winter athletes and a year-round community booster will be inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame.

Two-time Olympian and snowboard cross star Drew Neilson, triple Paralympic Games sit ski medalist Josh Dueck and longtime volunteer John Topping will enter the shrine Oct. 17 at the Village Green Hotel.

Tickets for the evening banquet are $40 a person. Sponsorship/table packages are $400.

Contact hall of fame director Ron Candy at the Greater Vernon Museum (250-542-3142)  for ticket and sponsorship information.

“We are honoured to choose these three highly worthy people for induction this fall,” said shrine director Roger Knox.

“It was an easy unanimous decision. We hope the public will lend their support and help us celebrate the enormous contributions to sport by Drew, Josh and John.”

The Hall of Fame will also present a special tribute to the late Lew Neilson (Drew’s father), who is in the shrine for auto racing and hang gliding.

The Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1982 through the vision of Vernon resident and sports enthusiast, Nick Alexis.

With the support of Vernon city council, Alexis and a dedicated group of volunteers created a series of outdoor exhibits celebrating the region’s dynamic sporting history in Vernon’s Cenotaph Park.

That same year, the new organization unveiled its first round of inductees to the Hall of Fame.  Several years later, in 2001, the Hall of Fame moved its exhibits into the newly constructed Vernon Multiplex (Kal Tire Place).

In 2011, the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame and Museum became a function of the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives.

Here are short bios on the new inductees:

Josh Dueck: Born on Jan. 13, 1981 in Kimberley, Dueck is a Canadian alpine skier who won a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympics in the men’s slalom sit-ski event. On Feb. 3, 2012, he became the first person to perform a backflip on snow in a sit ski,  earning him world-wide notoriety and an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. He is a vocal advocate for workplace safety and accessibility in sport, and in 2013 gave a TED Talk about his experiences. Dueck claimed silver and gold medals at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, where he was Canada’s flag bearer.

He was a former freestyle skier and coach before he became disabled when he overshot a demonstration jump in March 2004 at Silver Star Mountain Resort, breaking his back.

As an ace sit-skier, Dueck has also won gold in Mono Skier X at the 2011 X Games, bronze at the 2012 X Games and has won multiple IPC World Cup podiums and is the 2009 world downhill champion.

Drew Neilson: Born on June 15, 1974 in Vernon, Neilson won nine races on the FIS World Cup Tour and had 19 podiums in 14 seasons. Neilson won the Crystal Globe as the 2007 over-all snowboard cross World Cup champion and took home the bronze medal at the 2003 FIS World Championships in Kreichberg, Austria. Neilson went to the 2006 Turin Olympics where he finished 17th after being taken out in the early rounds of competition by another boarder.

His close friend Seth Wescott went on to win the gold medal at the inaugural Olympic event. Neilson was 11th at the Vancouver Olympics.

Other victories include gold medals at the 2000 ESPN Winter X Games and Gravity Games, multiple victories on the ISF Swatch World Boardercross Tour and winning Jeep King of the Mountain World Pro Tour.

John Topping: Born on June 30, 1942 in Vancouver, Topping is a John Oliver Secondary graduate who moved to Vernon in 1976. He worked in telecommuncations and retired at age 54, getting colon and lymph node cancer the year after. Cancer did not slow Topping down.

He founded the highly successful Funtastic Slo-Pitch Tournament 31 years ago. The tournament has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local sporting facilities and groups while injecting $4 million into the North Okanagan economy each summer. Upon moving to Vernon, Topping served as the fundraising director of the Coldstream Boy Scouts. He is now doing the same for Venture Training and previously was chairman for the Cancer – Walk for the Cure and a director for Vernon Special Olympics. He is a director with the Tim Hortons Athlete and Team of the Year and Sport Leader awards and is a past winner of the Ernie Kowal Memorial Award for distinguished community service.