Age was no barrier for Fernie Ollinger.
Ollinger passed away in 2006 at the age of 93. But, even in the last few years of his life, he was active in several sports in Prince George. For his decades of involvement in baseball and hockey, he is being inducted into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame as a pioneer.
Ollinger was born on Sept. 4, 1912, in Markinch, Sask., and settled in Prince George in 1949. He wasted little time making his presence felt in the city. He quickly became a driving force behind a variety of sports movements.
Through tireless effort in securing material donations, sponsorship dollars and volunteers, Ollinger was a major influence in establishing Prince George’s first PONY Baseball League in 1955. PONY baseball (Protect Our Nation’s Youth) was formed for boys who had passed the Little League age limit of 12. The league needed a home field, so Ollinger approached many businesses for material donations and sponsorship dollars. Don Paschal, from Paschal Bros. Grocery, along with Chuck Cawdell and Hermie Schloutz, organized a work party of parents, players, local merchants and city employees. Ollinger also asked the local prison warden if prisoners could help with labour. The warden agreed, as long as Ollinger could get tobacco and rolling papers donated from Kelly Douglas, which he did. Ollinger also received paint from Northern Hardware, doughnuts from Rose’s Ice Cream Shop and Coca-Cola from the Fawcetts. Soon, prisoners and Mayor Gordon Bryant were working side-by-side, putting in fence posts for the new baseball field.
As part of a fundraising campaign, Ollinger arranged to have PONY league players stand outside hotels, rooming houses and gambling houses. Players raised $800 in one day, enough money to buy fencing for the field and uniforms for each of the four teams. The field, through a combined effort, was completed in three days. Unfortunately, the first season of the PONY league, in the spring of 1955, was played indoors at the Old Arena due to consistent, heavy rain.
Ollinger’s passion for baseball also led him outside of Prince George. He helped start the youth baseball league in Burns Lake.
Throughout the 1950s, Ollinger also served as president of Prince George Senior Men’s Baseball and the Prince George Hockey Association. He coached or formed many hockey teams in the city. During that decade, he was also involved in other major sports projects in Prince George, including the first open-air hockey rink. It had lights and players’ benches and was located on Central Street. As well, Ollinger helped establish the first indoor curling rink in Prince George. The rink, close to Connaught Hill, relied on two airplane motors to circulate its air. A full week was needed to put in four sheets of ice. Ollinger also helped build the city’s first swimming pool, on Watrous Street.
While Ollinger may have made his biggest impact on the community in the 1950s, he stayed active into his senior years. On his homestead at Mud River, he built a six-hole golf course, known as the Sunshine Valley Golf Course. Ollinger, in his 80s at the time, got Prince George youth to help out with the project. He had them picking rocks, pulling weeds and seeding fairways.
Ollinger didn’t just foster sporting environments for others. He also enjoyed participating in sports. One of his favourite pastimes was curling, and he was good at it. Ollinger was part of the Tom Carmichael rink that won the Kelly Cup men’s bonspiel in 1990. At the age of 78, Ollinger became the oldest winner of the Kelly.
When Shafeed Rahman moved from Fiji to Prince George in 1975, he was looking for a new opportunity in a new country. Soccer was big back home, and he saw potential for the growth of the game in Prince George. Through his efforts, he helped turn soccer into one of the most popular sports in the city. With his assistance, organized soccer in Prince George experienced a boom. Today, the city has indoor and outdoor leagues for youth players, men and women.
More than 30 years after Rahman settled here, he is being recognized with membership in the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame as a coach and builder.
“I guess it is probably one of the greatest honours that the community of Prince George has bestowed on me and I am very thankful,” he said. “What else can I say? It’s quite an honour so I’m very, very pleased with it.”
Rahman, born in Fiji in 1946, had an impact on several different bodies of soccer within Prince George and also worked with the B.C. Soccer Association and Canadian Soccer Association.
In his involvement with the Prince George Youth Soccer Association, Rahman was a referee and worked on the board of directors. He organized and coordinated the first and second Interior Provincial B Cup tournaments in 1988 and 1991. Rahman also initiated the plan for new fields and a clubhouse for the PGYSA. Still with the youth game, he coached girls soccer at Blackburn junior secondary, where he was a teacher. Rahman initiated the Blackburn Cup secondary school tournament, a 16-team competition that ran successfully from 1981 to 1986.
At the senior level in Prince George, Rahman worked as an assistant coordinator for the men’s and women’s soccer competition at the 1990 B.C. Summer Games. He was also on the committee for the Vancouver 86ers trip to Prince George in 1992 and coordinated the 2001 Provincial Cup hosted by the North Cariboo Senior Soccer League. Rahman was also heavily involved in indoor soccer. He was president of the B.C. Indoor Soccer League from 2001 to 2003.
Provincially. Rahman was on the BCSA board of directors and served on committees for interior development, mini soccer, player development, provincial regional meetings and BCSA awards. He was the B.C. delegate to the Washington State Soccer Association for its annual general meeting in 1993 and also served in that capacity for the 2000 CSA annual general meeting in Montreal. Rahman was a director in charge of the B.C. Under-17 team that went to the national championships in Hamilton in 1993 and filled the same role with the B.C. Under-19 girls squad that participated in the 1994 national championships in Sherbrooke.
At the national level, Rahman was the B.C. representative for the CSA’s competition committee. He also founded and coordinated the first national masters tournament.
“I guess when I moved from the district level to the provincial level and eventually to the Canadian Soccer Association, I was able to bring some of the major tournaments to Prince George – the (girls Under-15 and Under-17 national championships in 2001) and the (1994) Rocky Mountain Cup,” he said. “I also emphasized (for) Prince George that it has one of the best facilities, and it was about time the soccer community in Canada started recognizing some of these very well-organized interior soccer associations. That probably would be my greatest contribution, and the other thing was building the (local youth) association.”
Awards Rahman has received include: the Blackburn Award of Merit; the Prince George Sports Citizen of the Month; the B.C. Youth Soccer Association Award of Merit; the PGYSA President’s Cup; Life Member of the B.C. Soccer Association; B.C. Indoor Soccer League Award of Merit; City of Prince George Award of Merit; and Life Member of the PGYSA.
Rahman retired from a 32-year teaching career in 2004. In addition to his time at Blackburn, he spent his last five years teaching at Prince George secondary school.
Think Olympics and you can imagine the top athletes in the world competing on the biggest stage.
Their devotion to fitness, their natural talent, passion for sport and ability to defy odds to live their dreams put Olympians in a class of their own.
One event doesn't make an athlete, but it can mark the pinnacle in his career. It puts all the time and effort in perspective.
In freestyle skier Scott Bellavance's case, his persistence paid off with a trip to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Competing in the most significant multi-sports winter event on earth was a dream come true.
"I think probably my most memorable event would be the event where I qualified for the Olympics because that was more stressful than actually being in the Olympics, the actual qualification portion of it, because it's such a goal that you work towards for so many years," Bellavance said.
Bellavance, 34, may have grabbed the fourth and final Canadian men's moguls berth to reach the Salt Lake City Games. But a sixth-place finish on the Deer Valley course at the Olympics placed him above the three other Canadian representatives – Ryan Johnson, Stephane Rochon and Jean-Luc Brassard. Rochon and Brassard had competed in previous Olympics, with Brassard the gold-medal champion at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway.
The memory of competing in the 2002 Olympics has faded in recent years for Bellavance, although he said he's been asked about it more recently. The timing of his induction into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame this year is fitting considering the 2010 Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver and Whistler in February. It also seemed appropriate that Bellavance's wife Dreanne was due to give birth to their first child the same month as the Olympics.
A PGSS graduate, Bellevance skied competitively for 14 years, beginning with the Central Interior Freestyle Ski Club in 1989. Nationally, he's competed for the Canadian National Development Team and Canadian National Freestyle Team. He competed in junior nationals from 1989 to 1994, and senior nationals from 1995 through 2003. He quit skiing competitively after the 2003 season, a year in which he won gold in dual moguls at the senior nationals.
On the international stage, Bellavance won gold at the Nor Am Cup and Europa Cup, has two silver medals from World Cup events, and a top-10 finish at the world championships. He's coached at the Central Interior Freestyle Ski Club and has continued coaching at Momentum Ski Camps at Whistler.
Bellavance, featured in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame following his Olympic performance in 2002, carries an education degree from UNBC and works as a teacher at Ron Brent elementary school.
Bellavance acknowledged the company he joins in the Hall. "It was nice to see the list and see the accomplishments of other people because when you're a kid you don't really pay attention as much to amateur sports because it's not in the news as much."
She's bowled her way to countless championship appearances. She's been a member of various provincial teams. She's even passed down her knowledge as a coach.
For Prince George five-pin bowler Kim Chadwick, 46, a string of success started in 1978 when she became a national senior girls champion. Still knocking down pins today, Chadwick has shown no signs of slowing down, coming off a 2009 in which she placed second in singles at the Canadian championships, was named the the list of Top 100 female bowlers for the past 100 years, played on the B.C. Masters ladies team and coached Team Okanagan to gold at men's bowling nationals.
Previously missing among Chadwick's accomplishments, her eventual inclusion in the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame wasn't in question. Based on her success and experience, it was more a matter of when she'd be inducted, not if she would be.
Chadwick's uncle and Hall of Fame committee member Tom Masich, inducted in 1998 for his efforts coaching track and field, told her the news.
"Over the years, definitely the city has been supportive. I think it's been pretty good, all in all, with the recognition. This really is an honour," said Chadwick, a hair stylist who works from home. "As a city, they've done really well at promoting, I think, everybody that's been in sports here. I don't know if that's because it's a smaller city. I find with my clients everyone seems to know what's going on, so I think it's always been really good."
Chadwick's individual medal collection is highlighted by national gold (1988) and silver (2004) from the TSN Pins Game, in addition to national gold in 1999 in the Master Ladies Singles category. She and her teammates on the B.C. Masters ladies team finished third and fourth at nationals in 1995 and 1996 respectively.
Chadwick was a member of the Team West squad that finished first at the TSN Pins Game in 2008, her fifth appearance in the competition.
A Level 2 coach, Chadwick works with children in the Youth Bowling league, and travels annually to Saskatoon to teach at the Youth Bowling School. She's coached provincial senior girls teams, including the squad that won gold at nationals in 2003.
Tony Tomra's name can be spotted in powerlifting record books. He's competed against the world's best in squat, bench press and deadlift. Now, he's joining more elite company as an inductee into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
News that he'd been selected for the Hall took Tomra by surprise. "You don't think of yourself that way," he said. "You compete and you do your own thing, and it's the life I lead. It's very surprising that other people take interest."
One of three individuals inducted as an athlete for the years 2008 and 2009, Tomra receives the recognition for his achievements, which included setting world records in squat and bench records at the international level.
The past decade has been filled with various individual achievements for Tomra. Not even two years ago, the 47-year-old Prince George native set a world record in the bench press by pushing 247.5 kilograms in the 100kg weight class. Tomra also set records in the 90kg class in 2007, with a squat lift of 322.5 kilograms and bench press of 235 kilograms.
The climax of his powerlifting career may have been the 2006 World Powerlifting Championships in Lake George, New York. Tomra took the distinction as the best on the planet in his age and weight category as he set personal records in the combined squat, deadlift and bench press to capture the 40- to 44-year-old division. To win, he squatted 330 kilograms, benched 242.5 kilograms and deadlifted 267 kilograms.
Tomra worked for Canfor's Prince George Sawmill, but left the occupation to begin a three-year program in Vernon to become a registered massage therapist.
A former bodybuilder who began powerlifting in 2001, Tomra continues to offer other individuals tips on his sport and healthy living.
If Kurt Ottesen had used his martial arts skills, as an athlete, official and coach, to do nothing more than travel the world, his career would’ve been deemed a success on that basis alone.
But Ottesen, a taekwon-do master, accomplished so much more than gathering stamps on his passport.
Ottesen, born in March of 1974, began competing in International Taekwon-do Federation events at the age of 12, and got an early taste of winning that would set his competitive standards at a very high level. Ottesen won local tournaments, regional events, provincial medals and earned a spot on the national team – and lots of opportunities to flash his passport.
Ottesen, a fifth-degree black belt working on the rarely-achieved sixth level, has run the gamut of high-level involvement in his sport – a coach and owner of his own taekwon-do school (Freedom Taekwon-do), a competitor at world championships, an official at the highest levels, and a globally-respected coach. His appearances at world championships have taken him to, among other places, Regina, Montreal, Quebec City, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Buenos Aires, Mazatlan, Paraguay, Italy, Germany, Helsinki, Phillipines, Japan, Hong Kong, Colombia, Trinidad, Honduras and Jamaica
“It’s a very prestigious honour being on Team Canada,” Ottesen said before he traveled to St. Petersburg in 1997. “I can’t really explain the feeling you get from knowing you will be representing your country.”
It was Ottesen’s first time competing for Canada, and he was the first British Columbian to battle for this country at the worlds. Ottesen had helped Canada win gold in the team category at the 1996 Pan American Games, and he’d earned his way to the national level by competing in nationals five times by the time he was 22 years old.
As an athlete, Ottesen served as Canada’s captain in 1999 in Argentina. He won gold in the open black belt division in Mazatlan in 2000 and can claim a dozen national titles and two world championships.
As a referee, Ottesen has served as chief referee, including at the 2004 world junior event in Riccone, Italy, and the senior world championships in 2009 in Mar Del Plata, Argentina, and has authored two books for referee training, one of which is used extensively as a pocket guide for taekwon-do officials.
As a coach, he has led his charges to tournaments for all ages, levels and scopes, perhaps the most notable being the 14-student contingent he took to Mexico in March of 2006.
He’s one of the fathers of organized soccer in Prince George. For his contributions to the sport during a span of five decades, Hans Niedermayer is a deserving inductee into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame in the builder/administrator category.
Niedermayer, often called the Godfather of Soccer in Prince George, started playing in a four-team men’s league in 1956. The throw-together league held its games at Connaught Field, which was basically no more than a gravel pit. The differing ethnic backgrounds of the players sometimes turned game nights into brawls. The league was seen as unstable, and Niedermayer and a group of others set out to make a change.
In 1960, Niedermayer was a founding member of the North Cariboo Senior Soccer League, an organization that is still going strong today. At various times, he served as president, vice president and a member of the board of directors. He was also a driving force behind the development of the original Rotary Fields and oversaw the construction of a clubhouse (1974-75) and grandstands (1978).
Niedermayer didn’t just focus his attention on the NCSSL. He initiated the Northern B.C. Soccer League, which featured teams from Prince George, Smithers, Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert, and ran successfully from 1980 to 1982. Also in 1982, he helped start the P.G. Recreational Soccer League, for older players who didn’t want to play competitively. Over the years, Niedermayer also organized and coached women’s soccer in the city.
To keep soccer kicking year-round in Prince George, Niedermayer helped get the city’s first indoor league off the ground in the late 1970s. This loop eventually transformed into the B.C. Indoor Soccer League, which presently has more than 50 men’s and women’s teams. With the BCISL, he held several executive positions, including vice president.
Niedermayer knew the importance of having youngsters involved in the game. For more than 25 years, he served as a coach in the Prince George Youth Soccer Association.
On the provincial scene, Niedermayer was a “soccer voice” for the north for 25 years and helped bring a variety of semi-professional and professional teams to the city for exhibition games against local clubs.
For his work, all on a volunteer basis, Niedermayer has received the NCSSL Award of Merit, the BCISL Award of Merit, the BCISL Life Membership Award, the B.C. Soccer Association Award of Merit and the City of Prince George Recreational Award of Merit.
Now, we welcome him to his rightful place in the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
As cornerman for his brother Barry, Wayne Sponagle learned the ins and outs of the fight game, amateur and pro, and how to come out ahead.
Four decades later, on the opposite side of the continent, he's still passing that knowledge on to his boxers.
In his 31 years as a coach, he's devoted thousands of hours to training the likes of Laurie Mann, Steve Chase, Mike Hutt, Tony Vecchio, Allan "Bulldog" Bayne, Todd Hatley, Tim Galeos, and most recently, national-level fighters Marcus Hume and Thomas Speirs, and that's paid off in bringing provincial and national titles and international accolades home to Prince George.
Born and bred in New Glasgow, N.S., Sponagle moved to Prince George in 1978 and started the East-West Boxing Club, later to join the Spruce Capital Boxing Club stable. Sponagle's strategies in the sweet science were put into practice in the professional arena and his son George used them to formulate a gameplan that defeated Paul "Silky" Jones of England, a former light middleweight world champion.
At age 51, Sponagle tested his own ability in the ring, making his boxing debut against a 21-year-old, whom he fought to a draw.
Sponagle is the driving force behind the wheel of the Spruce Capital Warriors team van on road trips to boxing outposts in Western Canada, giving his athletes a chance to put into practice the tricks of the trade he has taught them. Win or lose, the life lessons his boxers learn have set them on the right path.
As a matchmaker, Sponagle's track record is spotless. He's organized dozens of fight cards and continues to show he knows how to pair two fighters and give boxing fans what they really want to see -- a close fight.
As a coach who treats his athletes like one of the family, as a young-beyond-his-years fighter, and as a tireless promoter of everything boxing, Sponagle has left an indelible impression on the local fight scene worthy of his induction into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
An injury derailed Bjorger Pettersen's goal of competing in the Olympics, but it launched a new career as one of cross-country skiing's most influential builders in B.C. and Canada.
Pettersen's involvement in the sport he loved spanned decades and included stints as the Canadian national team head coach and a Canadian delegate on the FIS, the international ski federation.
Born in Norway, Pettersen was raised in Prince George after his family moved to northern British Columbia in 1953. As an 11-year-old, he brought his passion for cross-country skiing with him across the Atlantic. He won the northern B.C. cross-country ski title seven straight years between 1957 and 1963 and had a three-year race undefeated streak from 1958 to 1961.
While training for the 1964 Olympics, Pettersen injured an Achilles tendon and was unable to compete – but he quickly took his knowledge of the sport and applied it to coaching, first in Prince George, then in the rest of Canada.
In addition to coaching, Pettersen helped build the sport locally by co-founding the Hickory Wing Ski Club in 1957 and then collaborating to develop the cross-country, ski jump and biathlon facilities at Tabor Mountain beginning in 1960.
While living in Prince George, he started his career in sports administration, beginning by being elected Western Canadian cross-country skiing chairman in 1963.
Pettersen became the first-ever full-time coach of the Canadian cross-country ski team in 1971 and guided the team at the 1972 Olympics in Japan. He also spent 27 years as a Canadian representative on the international federation and his forward thinking is credited with making the sport more fan-friendly by adding mass start and pursuit races and pushing for the inclusion of skate-ski races.
While his coaching and administrative duties took him across the country, including launching an innovative program for young Inuit skiers in Inuvik, Pettersen remained connected to skiing in Prince George. He helped to co-host the Canadian championships in northern B.C. in 1981 and helped develop some of the trails at Otway Nordic Centre.
One of Pettersen's most significant accomplishments was helping to design the cross-country ski course in Canmore, Alta., a course that was used for the 1988 Winter Olympics.
A member of the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame since 2007 and an honorary lifetime member of the FIS, Pettersen is truly a cross-country ski pioneer in Prince George, in Canada and around the world.
Pettersen's father, John, is also a Prince George Sports Hall of Fame inductee this year.
In his prime, Ed Day was one of the top cross-country skiers in B.C., Canada and the world.
Day was born in New Zealand and grew up in Kimberley. He first jumped onto a pair of skis at the age of four and was introduced to cross-country when he was 12. With his natural ability and work ethic, he quickly became a rising star at the provincial and national levels.
Day made his first appearance in Prince George in December of 1962. He was 13 years old at the time and came to the city to attend a week-long training camp led by Bjorger Pettersen. Throughout his high school years, he kept returning to Prince George to train and to attend races. He continued his visits even while he was a university student in Vancouver and, in 1971, skied here in the Canadian Olympic trials for the 1972 Games in Sapporo, Japan. Day didn’t qualify for those Olympics but was making a name for himself inside his own country.
Day and his wife, Pat, moved to Prince George in 1973 after his graduation from UBC. By this time, he was a member of the national team and was almost always on the medal podium on race days. At the 1973 Canadian championships, held at Tabor Mountain, he placed third in the men’s 50-kilometre race and also helped his relay team to a bronze medal. At the 1974 championships in Mount St. Anne, Que., he was part of a second-place performance in the men’s relay. The next year, when nationals were in Burns Lake, Day was golden in the 15km and 30km distances and also powered the relay team to top spot. As well, he placed second in the 50km race and his overall performance at the championships earned him the Shell Cup as top aggregate winner.
At the same stage of his career, Day also represented Canada at numerous international events. Some of the races he attended were: the 1973 Niassma Games in Sapporo, Japan; the 1974 North American championships in Big Sky, Montana; the 1974 world championships in Fallun, Sweden; and the pre-Olympics in 1975 in Innsbruck, Austria. The next year, back in Innsbruck, he reached the pinnacle of his sport when he competed for Canada at the Winter Olympics.
After Day retired from international racing, he continued to ski recreationally and won the Caledonia Loppet twice.
From 1975 to 1981, Day resided in Valemount, where he worked for School District 57. But, he remained a member of Prince George’s Hickory Wing Ski Club. He returned to Prince George later in 1981 and served as an executive, race organizer and coach for Hickory Wing and the Caledonia Nordics.
Day continued to give his time to local cross-country skiing until 1996 and his impact on the sport is still felt today.