Reid Smyth takes off in a sprint at the RBC Training Ground event at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre in Saskatoon on Feb. 23, 2019.
Matt Olson / Saskatoon StarPhoenix / Saskatoon
The echoing sounds of sneakered footfalls slapping against a gymnasium floor filled the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre in Saskatoon as local athletes put on a show with hopes of someday representing Canada on the world stage.The RBC Training Ground program, partnered with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), is in its fourth year of looking for talented athletes with the potential to join the ranks of Canadian Olympians in the future.The program functions as an open invite to athletes who are hoping to take the next step toward competing on the world stage. Observers from the COC and sports organizations in Canada run a series of testing events like sprints, high jump, and the running beep test to see which local athletes might have the raw ability to make an impact in an Olympic sport.“After the Vancouver Olympics … it became clear we need to really start looking for that second group of athletes, that next generation of athletes,” said Jaime Sorenson, the program manager for the COC for the RBC Training Ground Program.The Training Ground program takes places in cities across Canada. Sorenson said last year there were about 3,000 total athletes that took part in the program and 123 at the Saskatoon event. Out of those 123, 10 were selected for additional training with specific sports, according to a press release.Sorenseon pointed to the success of Vaughn Taylor of Regina, who is now earning Future Olympian funding in Athletics, as an example of how successful the program can be regardless of where the search sessions take place. Related And one of the highlights for the training sessions is the support of past Canadian Olympians. Long-distance runner Lanni Marchant helped oversee the event in Saskatoon, and she said it was heartening to see the number of young athletes out to chase their dreams.Marchant said she spoke to an athlete in their mid-’20s who admitted they were afraid they’d missed their prime and their window to be a competitive athlete for Canada. But Marchant said it’s tough to predict what path people will take to being an athlete.“Lord knows there were times I wanted to give up on running, but I never did,” she said. “Sport is magical, and you never know what is going to happen.”For Reid Smyth, that path has brought him back around to the training program for the second year in a row. Smyth said he participated in the event last year in Saskatoon, and while he said he got some interest he never received a call from any of the potential Olympic sport programs to be a funded athlete.A wrestler with the U of S Huskies team, Smyth said missing out last year didn’t ruin his dreams — it just made him work harder for them.“You’re with some of the best athletes here, in the city and in Saskatchewan,” he said. “So you want to give it that next push and beat everybody here.”firstname.lastname@example.org