Figure skater Julia Gretarsdottir may be from Iceland but she is very familiar with the B.C. landscape.
The 15-year-old spends parts of her summers training in Vancouver and she also attended the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
So making the nine-hour flight from her home in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik to Kelowna wasn’t that big a deal.
Still, the differences between her home and Kelowna were striking as she arrived and held her first practise at the Capital News Centre in advance of her figure skating competition at the International Children’s Games.
“It’s beautiful here,” Julia said. “It’s different. It’s more open.”
The ice was to her liking as she found out as she practised on a nice soft sheet suitable for figure skaters.
The games will close Sunday with a figure skating gala at 2 p.m. at CNC, followed by the closing ceremonies at 5 p.m.
The four-member Iceland delegation was one of the smallest groups to arrive in Kelowna from 38 different cities in 13 countries. It was comprised of just two athletes, a coach and a delegation head.
What they found when they stepped off the plane was more than they expected.
“We’re elated, it’s fabulous,” said Thora Gunnarsdottir, Iceland’s head of delegation and Julia’s mother. “It’s so surpassed our expectations. We went to the Olympics in Vancouver and we were hoping we would get that kind of atmosphere here and we did. Everyone has been so friendly.”
While they enjoyed their lunch at the Grand Hotel, former Canadian Olympian Emily Brydon urged the competing youth to make friends and use the games as a way to connect with other people.
“I think your goal everyday should be to meet five different people,” said Brydon. “This is about sport but it’s also about taking what you can from sport and making it about so much more, about friends that you make and goals you want to achieve.”
Julia was planning to take that message and run with it. She said she came to Kelowna both for sport and to have the ability to meet other athletes who she may connect with.
“I want to meet kids and see how they train but also I’m here for the competition and the experience of competing against kids from other countries,” she said.
Sunday is the final day of competition at the International Children’s Games.
The closing ceremonies are for participants only and closed to the public.