She’s competed at a provincial, national and international level, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by her former elementary community.
While her Olympics days are in the past Camille Martens, 42, was conducted into the Mission Hill Elementary Hall of Fame for her achievements in the sport and business world. Now the owner and head coach of Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics Club, Martens fielded questions from a gymnasium full of excited grade schoolers after they watched highlights of her career on the projector.
“I did have some big victories. To me, the victory that meant the most are the things I learned. When I learned how to be kind when I didn’t want to be kind,” Martens told the Mission Hill Elementary students.
Students from Chad Soon’s Grade 5-6 split class led the ceremony Feb. 4.
“Camille Martens was eight-years-old when she decided she was going to dream big. Olympic gymnastics was on the TV. ‘I want to do that,’ thought the excited little girl from Vernon. Camille told her dad that one day she would be in the Olympics,” said Felicity Vance, Grade 5, as she introduced Martens, who had a smile plastered on her face for the entirety of the ceremony.
Amolak Mann, Grade 6, said Martens became the Canadian junior champion at 14. She held the Canadian senior champion title from ages 16-20 and took top North American rhythmic gymnast at the World Championships in 1993 and 1994. In the Common Wealth Games, Martens took home five medals.
“But success wasn’t coming easily,” said Zoey Kibblewhite, Grade 6. “Some of her coaches were extremely hard on her, demanding perfection.”
“It didn’t matter that she was often sick,” added Jordyn Potts, Grade 5. “She could still be a gymnast, one of the world’s best. She believed in herself.”
Martens said the most important thing someone can do is, “find the thing that makes your eye sparkle.”
“It’s nice to be able to know that my story excited kids,” Martens said after the presentation. “Any time there’s an opportunity for connecting with our local youth, I feel both honoured and extremely grateful.”
Martens said she wasn’t exceptionally talented or wealthy. It was her determination that bolstered her success.
“When you can find the thing that makes your eyes sparkle, you’re already among the lucky ones,” Martens said. “Soon does such a good job of attaching kids to possibilities.”
And, after the presentation, the gymnasium was full of budding rhythmic gymnasts.
“Camille shows us that dreams can come true. We look up to her because she reached the highest level as an athlete,” said Harley Taylor, Grade 6. “We admire Camille even more for giving so much back to her community. We are proud to induct hometown hero Camille Martens into the Mission Hill Hall of Fame.”