Two Vernon athletes have been recognized as community sports heroes.
Tennis star Vasek Pospisil and freestyle skier Elena Gaskell have been named winners of athletic excellence awards in PacificSport Okanagan’s Sport Hero Awards 2021.
Each day from March 1-5, PacificSport Okanagan’s website will spotlight one athlete, one coach and one local sport organization who have demonstrated excellence, innovation and leadership in 2020.
Pospisil’s story was posted Tuesday, March 2.
Pospisil had what many people might call a “comeback year” in 2020.
In fact, he earned the title both figuratively and literally, given the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) award he received in 2020, “The Comeback Player of the Year Award,” which is voted on by his own professional tennis playing peers.
Pospisil accumulated numerous impressive competitive outcomes in 2020, including reaching two tournament finals during the shortened season after undergoing back surgery the year before.
“What Vasek has done for Canada and for the Okanagan in the past, it just speaks for itself, including where he’s got the best results,” said Pospisil’s proud father, Milos, in the video created by Sam Charles. “He is very passionate about representing Canada and obviously when he represents Canada he’s also representing B.C. and the Okanagan, where he was born.
Pospisil grew up in Vernon until he was 12 years old, practising on public courts at the old Vernon Secondary School. The family bought a house just for that reason: to be close to the tennis court.
“The Okanagan was really where he learned his tennis. It’s our home and people were nice and have been supportive through our journey,” said Milos.
“For his impressive post-recovery comeback, and for managing the stressors of professional sport and the challenges this past year, we congratulate Vasek Pospisil for his resilient attitude and perseverance as a Community Sport Hero,” said PacificSport Okanagan.
Gaskell has been a member of Canada’s national freestyle ski team since 2016. Gaskell started in the sport at age seven at Vernon’s Silver Star Freestyle Club.
She has excelled at the World Cup level, and was “able to make some podiums, she won the Crystal Globe for the overall Big Air World Championship” in the past two years. She takes the role of being a mentor to some of the young girls that are coming up as a key responsibility.
This past year was a tough one for Gaskell with limited opportunities to train and compete, experiencing an injury, so she has had to work hard to find new ways to still feed that “ferociousness and determination that she just really wants to excel and do well. The Beijing 2022 Olympics are the next big milestone, so it’s a qualifying year this year, and she’s been just overcoming an injury.
For her mental perseverance in the face of adversity, and working on recovery to a comeback and modelling her leadership skills for the skiers who look up to her, we recognize Elena Gaskell as a Community Sport Hero.