For years, back in the day, the waters of Okanagan Lake were a playground of sorts for Kelowna’s Athans brothers, the gregarious trio of skilled skiers that were able to get to the top of their chosen sports with a blend of natural talent, determination and a fear-nothing attitude.
Gary, George Jr. and the late Greg Athans dominated in their chosen sports of water and alpine skiing and together with world class parents Irene and George Sr. the family took up its rightful spot in the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 as one of the most successful sports families to ever come out the Okanagan.
And now another generation of Athans athletes is continuing the family tradition as teenagers Isaac and Marcus Athans, Gary’s kids, are following in the family footsteps of sporting success.
Marcus, 13 and Isaac, 11, were members of Team Canada’s entry at the 6th Can Am Challenge water ski championships at Lake of Dreams in Jerseyville, Ill, last month wrapping up a successful season of slalom, jump and trick events.
For dad Gary, watching his two boys taking on the sports world much like he and his brothers did, is like a trip down memory lane.
“I am really excited that they find such joy in participating the same way I did and my brothers did,” said Gary this week. “It puts a big smile on my face every time we go skiing or competing. It is pretty much me re-living my childhood.”
At the Can-Am Challenge, a two-day, world-record capability event that featured team competitions between Canada and the United States, the Athans’ boys were members of Team Canada’s six member Under-13 team.
Marcus competed in slalom, jump and trick while Isaac competed in the jump events and while Marcus attained a personal best and jumped the farthest (100 feet) in the U-13 category, the US team took the team jump title.
Marcus also set a personal best in the slalom event while Isaac jumped to a personal best 68 feet with still two years remaining in the U-13 division.
While Team Canada finished second to the US in the team events, it was the close of a stellar season on the water for the Athans’ boys. Isaac won the Canadian Boys 2 jump title earlier in the month at the Canadian Waterski Nationals held at Predator Bay in Calgary. This was the same title that Marcus had won the previous year.
And the pair are also showing the competitive nature that led their dad and uncles to sporting success.
“They are competitive which for sure runs in the family,” said Gary. “They keep reminding me that they are better already than I was at their age. The children have chosen this as a summer sport they want to pursue and as a family we all can participate including my wife who is still working on her slalom technique in the trainer course.”
And Gary isn’t just watching as he has re-entered competitive skiing himself. Last season he qualified for the Canadian senior world team and competed in the jumping division at a world event in Mexico.
With the competitive season now over the Athans are continuing to train on Okanagan Lake, hoping for a warm fall to continue to chase their passion, just as their family has done for decades in the Okanagan.