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Stewart: Triathlon is a race we should all get behind

Last weekend, I had the privilege of handing out awards at the Pushor-Mitchell Apple Triathlon.

It was great to meet some of the incredibly talented athletes and congratulate them on their performances. But of all the images I’ll take away from the weekend, the one that struck me most was the streets—packed not just with runners and cyclists, but cars.

With cars, unlike with people, you can always tell where they’ve come from. And at the Apple Triathlon, I was struck by the license plates from all over the country. They reflected a group of competitors and spectators from across the country who came to Kelowna for the event.

It’s difficult to say just how many visitors come just for the triathlon—but judging from the packed streets and stands, it certainly attracted quite a few. This is important, as tourism continues to be a major economic driver in the Kelowna area. An estimated 1.2 million annual visitors account for $610 million of economic activity and some 9,800 jobs. Certainly, many of them come to enjoy the lake and climate—but a great many come for specific events, and it’s important that we continue to support them.

Last weekend, it wasn’t hard to see why they chose to visit us. The Apple Triathlon is a truly world-class sporting event in which novices and elite athletes are equally welcome. Competitors ranged from 17 to 77 years old—I will remember one 74-year old Manitoban competitor in particular for years to come.

Unfortunately, 2011 marked an end of sorts, as the Canadian championships in triathlon move to Edmonton. And while they’ll do a great job, and I understand why national championship events move around the country, I can’t help but wish it would stay. It’s such a great event. Apparently Triathlon Canada agrees—they have encouraged Richard Montgomery and the Kelowna Apple Triathlon Society to consider holding a world championship event. I hope they do, and that the provincial government can continue to find ways to support it. This year, we worked with KATS to obtain community gaming grant funding, and they received $28,000 for their youth athletes program.

It’s sometimes difficult to manage continuing expectations of funding, but I feel KATS and the triathlon are well worth supporting. Not just as a great family event, but as an investment into one of the Okanagan and B.C.’s most significant industries—tourism.

Ben Stewart is the Liberal MLA for Westside-Kelowna.

 

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