Red Deer will play a big role in helping Canada turn the page on its successes at the Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games in early June.
The city will be one of four Alberta centres taking part in the Celebration of Excellence, as more than 200 Olympians and Paralympians will descend on Red Deer, Edmonton, Calgary and Banff to talk with students and visit hospitals and Ronald McDonald House.
In Red Deer, 17 schools will be visited by two athletes each.
For the Canadian Olympic Committee, this is just one way they hope to inspire the next generation of athletes.
“It’s about celebrating our athletes and celebrating their success in Sochi and bringing that spirit to Alberta,” said Derek Kent, the committee’s chief marketing officer.
“We all know there are many Olympians who train in Calgary and the surrounding area. We all know it’s a great sports province and we want to recognize their contributions.”
There is no word yet on which athletes will visit which location, though they do like to get athletes into schools close to where they are from.
Red Deer and area sent several athletes to Sochi, including Zina Kocher (biathlon), Mellisa Hollingsworth (skeleton), Lyndon Rush (bobsled), Danielle Wotherspoon (speedskating), though their involvement has not yet been confirmed.
On June 4, the athletes will be honoured in the House of Commons and then they will be flown out to the four Alberta communities — the celebrations rotate with each Olympiad — for The Heroes Tour on June 5. The celebrations will continue on June 6 with the Sochi 2014 Parade of Champions in Calgary and will wrap up with the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame gala and induction ceremony later that night.
This year’s inductees are gymnast Kyle Shewfelt, speedskater Cindy Klassen, the men’s eight rowing team of 2008, speedskating coach Marcel Lacroix, hockey coach Pat Quinn, and late former Alberta premier Ralph Klein.
There will be much for the COC to celebrate, especially considering its recent successes at the games, finishing third overall in Sochi with 10 gold, 10 silver and five bronze medals.
“There were so many great stories … so many outstanding performances, the goal is having all those athletes spread out in the Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding areas, including Red Deer, and sharing that message of what it took to be an Olympian, hopefully inspiring the next generation of Olympians,” said Kent. “Young kids look at these athletes as their heroes and that’s what it’s all about.”