The commitment and passion that surrounds sports accomplishments is evident in the latest inductees to the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame.
A rower, a volleyball player, a hockey team and a trio committed to enhance opportunities to play and celebrate achievements headed the list of the 2021 nominees.
Normally formally acknowledged at a morning breakfast banquet at the Coast Capri Hotel, this year a virtual ceremony was held because of COVID-19 public gathering restrictions.
But that did little to diminish the accomplishments of those recognized for induction in the hall of fame.
In the athlete category, rower Scott Fransden had a supportive high school coach but from then on always fought against the perception he was too small to be a competitive rower.
At six-foot-two and 180 pounds, Fransden often found himself physically out-manned by competitors.
“The heavyweight rowers tended to be in the six-foot-eight range and 220 to 230 pounds…there was always a tendency for coaches to go with the bigger guys. I definitely had to fight against that bias my whole rowing career,” he recalled.
That persistence paid off as he became a champion rower in the U.S. collegiate ranks and on the international stage. The Kelowna native won seven medals in the World Cup rowing competition, four of those being gold.
He and his rowing partner Dave Calder captured a silver medal in the pairs competition at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Dorothy Schwaiger Jantzen, who grew up in Lake Country, first gained attention on the volleyball court as a member of the George Elliot Secondary School girls’ provincial champion volleyball team.
She went on to be named MVP of the gold medal winning 1976 Can-Am Games and powered the University of Saskatchewan to a national championship in 1979.
Her induction comes on the heels of previous recognition as an inductee to the Saskatchewan, Saskatoon and University of Saskatchewan sports halls of fame.
Today, Jantzen says wearing the Canadian jersey in international competition was an amazing experience.
“I still get tears in my eyes when I watch the Olympics because I know what that feels like for an athlete,” she said.
In the team category, given entry to the hall of fame this year was the 1993 Centennial Cup winning Kelowna Spartans, coached by Jim Hammett.
Winning the BCJHL title losing only 12 regular season games, team member Diano Zol remembers playing on a team that hated to lose.
“As a young guy coming into the league, I remember how you did not want to let anyone down when it was your turn to get on the ice,” he recalled.
Hammett remembers thinking how leaving the friendly confines of Memorial Arena to play a tournament in Amherst, Nova Scotia, would be a difficult challenge.
“We were leaving our fans and our building behind, but once we got there and walked into the ring, we realized it was just another wooden building with a lot of paint on it, and we felt, “Hey, we are home.”
The Spartans outscored their opponents 27-12 in the roundrobin portion of the tournament, and scored a 7-2 win in the Canadian Junior A Hockey championship.
In the builder category, inducted into the hall of fame this year is Al Horning, who made a lifetime of contribution to the local sports community first as a volunteer and then in his political career as a city councillor, MLA and MP.
Edith Gay Park and Kings Stadium are two notable baseball facilities in the city which Horning played an active role in helping get it built.
He remembers how Kings Stadium was built, using the disposed plywood from the construction of the Okanagan Lake Floating Bridge being built at the same time, the many volunteers who provided the labour for that project.
Now at 82 and battling health issues, Horning finds himself sitting on the sidelines but many still seek his advice and input on how to get things done.
Rolli Cacchioni and Sharon Leveque round out this year’s inductees as co-winners of the special recognition W.A.C..W.R. Bennett Award.
Both earned that recognition for their selfless volunteer supports to local sports and athletes.
Cacchioni was involved in the education system as a trustee, administrator and trustee for more than 50 years, a common fixture at high school basketball and football games.
Rod Belinski, sports director for the Central Okanagan School District, said the void left behind by Cacchioni’s death earlier this year will be impossible for one person to fill.
“He was always there to help out and do stuff. And as a person myself who organizes things, it will take a team of people to replace what he did,” Belinski said.
Cacchionni is also one the founding members of the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame.
Eugene Leveque said his late wife Sharon was someone “who loved to see success in what other people did and revelled in it.”
As an airport ambassador, she made sure to plan a celebration for local athletes returning home from their athletic triumphs abroad, and spent a lifetime serving as the premier sports historian in the valley.
And she kept in touch with many of the athletes through the years she helped showcase.
“She certainly deserved the accolades but was a little embarrassed about it…she made other people feel important and that was her gift,” Eugene said.
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