'A lot of talent in the room': Hundreds of would-be Olympians take part in training event

More than 400 GTA athletes took part in an event Saturday, hoping to impress Canadian Olympic officials and one day have their Olympic dreams become reality.

Organizers say the free talent search event — held at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre — was designed to identify athletes with the raw talent that could make them well suited for an Olympic sport they may never have considered.

Brittany Maclean, a retired competitive swimmer, was among the Olympians providing moral support for the young athletes at Saturday's event.

"We have a lot of the NSOs [national sport organizations] here that are looking for new talent and fresh talent," Maclean told CBC Toronto.

"I definitely think we have a lot of talent in the room and it's going to potentially be one of the largest training grounds we've had so far. So, here in Toronto, the best of the best are here to compete."

Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC

Maclean won a bronze medal in the women's 4 x 200 m freestyle relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

She said it was really great to see people encouraging and supporting each other and giving their all in hopes that they may one day be one of Canada's next Olympians.

"To see people just getting out here, trying their best, supporting one another, and then my favourite part is them leaving here with an interest in a sport that they may have never thought of."

The Toronto event is one of more than 30 happening across the country in 2019.

Top performers at local events (any athletes deemed to have Olympic potential), will begin further testing (one-on-one) with specific sports, with the potential of being invited to the first-ever RBC Training Ground national final, which will bring together the top-100 high potential athletes discovered at various qualifiers across the country.

Based on the national final results (to be held in Calgary), up to 30 high performing athletes will be selected as RBC Future Olympians and receive funding and resources to pursue their Olympic dreams.

Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC

Pierce Lepage, the 2016 RBC training ground winner and current Olympian in decathlon, was another on-site mentor at Saturday's event.

"You're looking to see that next big athlete, the next winner, seeing where they can go and hopefully make the Olympics," he told CBC Toronto.

Last year 263 young athletes attended the Toronto event, and more than 40 were identified as having high performance potential. Eighteen were then invited to do sport specific testing with one of the participating Olympic sports.

Toronto's Dennis Ohene-Adu (athletics) and Whitby's Sarina Burry (rowing) went on to earn funding for a new Olympic dream.