Pandemic-postponed celebration of B.C. sport back on, albeit virtually

·2 min read
Vernon's Vasek Pospisil is one of many B.C. athletes being recognized at the 54th Sport B.C. Athlete of the Year Awards Thursday evening. (Pascal Guyot/AFP via Getty Images/File - image credit)
Vernon's Vasek Pospisil is one of many B.C. athletes being recognized at the 54th Sport B.C. Athlete of the Year Awards Thursday evening. (Pascal Guyot/AFP via Getty Images/File - image credit)

They've endured an extra 378 days of tension and anticipation.

But finally, some of British Columbia's best amateur athletes will receive the recognition they deserve Thursday evening in a virtual staging of the 54th Sport B.C. Athlete of the Year Awards.

Like most events of its kind, the celebration was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed organizers to come up with an online alternative.

Last year on March 12, 550 people from across the province were set to converge on the Vancouver Convention Centre for the gala.

But on March 11, when the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, and when organizers started hearing about an outbreak among the attendees of a dental conference held at the convention centre days earlier, they were left with no choice.

"A lot of panic ensued and certainly some really tough decisions had to be made on short notice," said Sport B.C. CEO and president Rob Newman.

The pivot to a virtual format still has many of the familiar touches. CBC's Scott Russell, the longtime host of the awards, is back to help recognize the province's best from 2019.

Three finalists in each of the 14 athlete, coach and officials categories were announced well over a year ago.

Even though a Surrey newspaper accidentally leaked the winners' names early, they will be revealed officially Thursday evening.

The full list of finalists can be found here.

Newman said after dealing with a year of pandemic-generated curve balls, it feels important to recognize and celebrate the sport community.

"It's a ray of sunshine in what's been a difficult year in sport," he said.

"For the [provincial sport organization] members that make up Sport B.C. it's been a challenge to say the least. Certainly we hope this is a kick-off to a more positive year within the province for sport and physical activity."

Winners already announced:

  • Harry Jerome Comeback Award - Stephane Tanguay, Simon Fraser University football.

  • Best of B.C. - Vasek Pospisil, tennis.

  • Daryl Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award - Dianne Barker, curling.

  • In Her Footsteps - Debbie Chong, Loreen Barnett, Diane Barkley, Patricia Vertinsky.

  • Bobbie Steen Legacy Foundation Award - Emma Courtney, Megan Hebert.

  • KidSport Community Champion - Sanjeet Sandana.