Greg Athans to become third Athans inducted into BC Sports Hall of Fame
Zoe Athans never had the chance to see her father Greg compete as one of the best freestyle skiers in the world.
Now a 19-year-old physics/engineering student at UBC, Zoe was just 11 years old when Greg Athans passed away in 2006, at just 51 years of age, suffering complications from type II diabetes.
The gregarious Athans was a pioneer in the sport of freestyle skiing, a multiple-time world champion and a self taught innovator. Also a world class water skiier his accomplishments will finally be recognized by the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, who will induct Athans posthumously as part of the class of 2014.
But as good as he was on the slopes or on the water, or later in his life as a photographer, it was as a person and a father where Greg Athans really seemed to excel.
"I didn't get to see him when he was skiing but I know he was always the best Dad anyone could ever have," said Zoe this week. "He was the kindest person I ever met. He never raised his voice. He was the most kind-hearted person you could meet.
When officially inducted in 2014, Greg Athans will become the third member of his family to reside in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, joining his father George Sr. and his older brother George Jr. The Athans didn't compete and excel in sports because they wanted to win awards. They did it because they had a passion for it, instilled in them by their parents, both competitive athletes.
And Greg took the ball and ran, taking what was a fringe sport of freestyle skiing pushing it to become an Olympic sport and one that Canada has excelled at for decades.
"I don't think Greg or any of our family members were involved in sports because we wanted notoriety," said George Jr. from his home in Montreal. "We all did it for the passion. I think Greg would be honoured by this. Personally if I look at his achievements in his particular sport I think he should have been in that B.C. Sports Hall of Fame a long time ago. Probably his accomplishments were far greater than what I did. But he was overlooked. This time they realized it was time and I'm really happy for that. I've always been very proud of his accomplishments."
Greg Athans list of accomplishments is outstanding. Four world freestyle titles, two world moguls titles, one world ballet title. He changed the sport of freestyle skiing and helped take it mainstream. On the water he won the Canadian water ski championships an incredible 15 times.
Younger brother Gary said he was an unbelievable role model.
"He taught me and shared with me many of his skills in sports and life," said Gary. "He always said the difference between first and second is often just believing in yourself and simply saying 'I can do it' and not letting any doubt enter your mind. As I have found out he knew this applied to all aspects of life. I'm sad he could not be here to receive this award. He deserves it."
For Zoe Athans and no doubt her older sister Carly, the lessons they learned from Greg Athans will last longer than any single sporting award. Still, Zoe said it's nice to see her father honoured by the B.C. Sports Hall.
"I know when he was alive he always wanted to be inducted into the hall with his dad and brother," said Zoe. "He always taught me to try my best and instilled in me that I could do anything I wanted to do if I set my mind to it. I always want to do my best and I always want to make my family proud because it's a big name to live up to. I'm really excited about this. It's a big honour for our family"
In the end, the sports accomplishments were secondary to Greg Athans and as his family remembers the man that was instrumental in shaping many lives, it is the person and the lessons that he left behind that are being remembered.
"We all miss him," said George Jr. "We all miss his great sense of humour. He was kind of an iconoclast in the way he did everything his way and differently than everyone else. But if you ever asked him his crowning moment or his greatest achievement, he would always tell you that it was his two daughters."
Greg Athans will be officially inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in Sept. of next year.