She was competing internationally as a pre-teen. At 13, she moved to Vancouver for full-time training as a rhythmic gymnast.
Today, at 36, Camille Martens runs her own club of 150 members out of a renovated warehouse at her East Vernon property, giving back to a sport which taught her so much.
Martens is one of seven world-class athletes to be inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame at a Wednesday ceremony and luncheon at the Schubert Centre.
“I always said I would come back to Vernon and coach,” said Martens, who started the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics Club in 1997. “I definitely went through a lot of trials and tribulations, but I’m thankful.”
Martens endured some rather merciless training methods while living in Bulgaria and Russia, but always stayed in gymnastics motivated by joy and not fear.
“I was always driven by my desire and not the people around me, which I think is most important. I learned a lot about life and how I wanted to coach and be a parent.”
A mother of two, Martens was a provincial champion from 1987-95 and Canadian queen from 1990-96. She was dynamite at the ‘94 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, pocketing one gold, three silver and one bronze medal.
She battled hip and back injuries at the ‘96 Atlanta Summer Olympics and finished 33rd overall after placing top-10 at three prior World Cups.
“The highlight would be the Commonwealth Games because I was the most medalled Canadian athlete and it was a pretty big deal in the press. My mom and dad, who could only see me compete every two years, were there along with lots of other family and friends and people who had supported me financially. I will be forever thanking people who helped me.”
Martens enters the shrine alongside Major League baseball slugger Kevin Reimer, hockey star Larry Kwong, the first Chinese man to play in the NHL, downhill ski sensation Rob Boyd, and swimming brothers Gary and Steven Vander Meulen.
Vern Dye, who helped found the Vernon Junior A hockey franchise and the B.C. Junior Hockey League, and his son, Wayne, named Vernon’s Athlete of the Century in 2000, will enter the shrine posthumously.
The Vernon Lakers, who won back-to-back Centennial Cup Junior A hockey titles from 1989-91, will join the shrine with head coach Eddie Johnstone and a few players attending.
Tickets to the luncheon are $25 and are available at the Ticket Seller inside the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.
“As of Friday afternoon, we have sold more than 100 tickets, so we’re very excited,” said Hall of Fame committee director Roger Knox. “It’s going to be a fun afternoon with plenty of nostalgia and memories. The people and teams being enshrined are very well-deserving of the honour.”
The Hall of Fame, resurrected through the auspices of the Greater Vernon Museum curator Ron Candy, last held an induction ceremony almost 20 years ago.
The original Hall of Fame was founded by Nick Alexis in 1982, opening at Jubilee (Cenotaph) Park. Vandalism to the shrine in 1997 forced former chairman Chris Nelson to pack up the contents and search for a safer site.
The shrine is now under the direction of Greater Vernon Museum and Archieves so curator Ron Candy and staff will be updating the displays on an ongoing basis.