Travis Towers, a local trampolinist, is this year’s athlete in the Okanagan Athlete Sponsorship Program. (Brieanna Charlebois/ Morning Star)

Travis Towers, a local trampolinist, is this year’s athlete in the Okanagan Athlete Sponsorship Program. (Brieanna Charlebois/ Morning Star)

Local Gymnast aims high with help of athlete sponsorship program

OGC trampolinist Travis Towers aims to make Team Canada with the help of the Okanagan Athlete Sponsorship Program in Vernon.

Okanagan Gymnastics Centre made the community proud at this year’s Canadian Championships in Lethbridge. OGC had eight athletes attend that were representing Team B.C. Among them was Travis Towers, a 16-year-old athlete from Vernon.

The Canadian Championships are a trial event for the World Age Group Championships. This year, the World Championships are set to take place in November in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Towers competed in four events at the Canadian Championships, including: trampoline, double mini trampoline and team finals for both events. On individual trampoline, Level 6 men’s, Towers finished second. He also placed second in double mini trampoline. But his best finish was first place in team finals for the men’s team.

“Next is hopefully going international,” said Towers. “I’m on Team B.C. right now and I’m trying to get to Team Canada this year.”

With his most recent success, this seems like a realistic possibility for Towers. His next goal is to compete internationally under the Canadian flag — hopefully this year in Russia.

Dylan Wiebe, a local Registered Massage Therapist in Vernon, also attended the Canadian Championships to support Towers.

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Three years ago, Wiebe started the Okanagan Athlete Sponsorship Program which allows local athletes to compete, train and receive therapy and support to excel in their sport. This year, Towers is being sponsored by the program.

“The program is basically my passion for sport and to give the ability for them to excel in their sport,” said Wiebe. “I provide therapy, a little bit of strength and conditioning and, this year, some financial support so they can pursue their dreams. I was an athlete too and never caught the opportunity to have that so I wanted to give back in that sense because I like to see the athletes do what they love.”

In order to qualify for the program, the athlete must compete at an elite level; a dedicated athlete. Wiebe has sponsored body builders, golfers and gymnasts thus far and plans to continue the program. He said that Towers embodied exactly what he looked for in an athlete.

“Travis was a client of mine previously and just speaking it through with him and his mom about his sport and hearing about his sport, it seemed like he fit the criteria that I was looking for,” explained Wiebe. “He just had the good overall athlete personality and mentality.”

The program has been beneficial to Towers, who recently suffered from a back injury — a common, but pesky, problem for trampolinists. Towers explained that, during a competition in April, he landed with straight legs, which then caused his back to jam. With Wiebe’s guidance, he took a month off of training — a tough decision mid-season.

“We took him off training and he recovered and performed really well in Lethbridge,” said Wiebe. “Having that support and having that expertise in the health profession just gives him more confidence as an athlete by letting him know he’s being taken care of.”

Wiebe said he considers Towers is a local prodigy for trampoline nearing his chance to make the Canadian National Team at 16-years-old.

“This year is also my first year that I will be able to financially sponsor an athlete so I would love to make more athletes in the community aware of what is offered,” said Wiebe. “I only choose one athlete a year so selection is tight.”

Towers also said it’s a big help, especially considering he has to travel to Kelowna to train four times each week.

Wiebe said he welcomes any local businesses or persons considering supporting to the program to contact him.

“Sports bring the community together and I think, as a community, we need to work to build up our local athletes and that would be phenomenal,” he added. “Think about if Travis made it to the Olympics. We could all cheer for him and say we all helped contribute to his success in a small way to help get him there.”

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Towers represents Team B.C. and is hoping to make Team Canada this year. (Photo contributed)

Towers represents Team B.C. and is hoping to make Team Canada this year. (Photo contributed)