Newfoundlander Andrew Wood joins Sarah Orban and Avalon Wasteneys in the RBC Training Ground Regional winner’s circle.

RBC Training Ground is traveling from coast-to-coast looking for Canada’s next Olympian. Over 1,300 young athletes have been tested so far in 2017, but only five will be named Top Performers and receive an acclimatization trip to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Andrew Wood – Atlantic Canada Regional Winner

St. John’s native Andrew Wood grew up playing basketball before switching to track at university. His story bears resemblance to that of Andre De Grasse, who ran his first race in basketball shorts. He’s hoping that he can follow in his footsteps, thanks to the support of RBC Training Ground. Wood was named Atlantic Canada’s Top Performer on June 10 at the regional final event hosted at the Canada Games Centre in Halifax.

Wood, 21, hit multiple national benchmarks and was the top male for standing long jump and 40m sprint. He has attracted the attention of at least three different national sport organizations (NSO) with his impressive speed and power, qualities that are important to sports like bobsleigh, athletics and rugby.

“Athletics has been a huge part of my life throughout the past few years. I feel amazing right now, I’m shaking a bit. I didn’t expect to win, but I’m super proud. I came in to the competition today just wanting to have fun and see what happens.”

Andrew Wood, 21, competes in the 40m sprint at the RBC Training Ground regional final for Atlantic Canada. Photographer: Kevin Light

The journey to the Olympic Games is a long one, and Wood’s is just beginning. Within the next few weeks, he’ll be contacted by the NSOs who are interested in him and begin sport-specific testing for the sports that identified him as a prospect. He’s just happy to have the opportunity.

“I think athletes from Atlantic Canada can be underestimated. I’m so happy to represent St. John’s and I’m ready to debunk that myth.”

More than 100 athletes from Maritime provinces were invited to the Atlantic Canada regional final. Wood is the first athlete from Newfoundland to win RBC Training Ground and receive funding to support his athletic development through the program.

Sarah Orban – Alberta Regional Winner

Twenty-one-year-old Sarah Orban has always dreamed going to the Olympic Games. Thanks to RBC Training Ground, the Calgary native will get to see her dream come to life. Orban was named Alberta’s Top Performer on May 6 at the RBC Training Ground regional final event hosted at Winsport, thereby securing the grand prize trip and funding to continue her athletic pursuits.

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“Winning RBC Training Ground is incredible, it feels surreal,” says Orban. “When I first heard about the program, I knew I had to take the opportunity to come out and compete and be recognized.”

Athletes can register for free at RBCTrainingGround.ca

Orban was chosen by a panel of coaches and talent identification officials based on her well-rounded performance at the Alberta Regional Final. Currently in her fourth year the University of Lethbridge, Orban plays on the women’s varsity soccer team and runs track. Her multi-sport background was evident throughout the testing and she finished atop the leaderboard on the bike sprint and posted the second-best scores on the day for the 40m sprint, triple jump and standing broad jump. Her high scores on these speed and power tests make her a prime candidate for sports like cycling and skeleton.

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“I’m definitely open to trying other sports, and I’ve actually considered trying skeleton before,” says Oban. “Talking to some of the Olympians that were here today was so inspirational, and they just made me feel like I could get to that level – that with grit and dedication, any goal can be pursued. Going to the Olympic Games next year is going to make me even more hungry to compete.”

The Regional Final in Calgary was the culmination of a series of combines hosted in Lethbridge, Okotoks, Edmonton and Grande Prairie. Though Orban was selected as the Top Performer, the journey is far from over for her and the other young phenoms that competed. High-performance coaches will be reviewing the testing data and contacting athletes that hit certain performance benchmarks for further sport-specific testing.

Avalon Wasteneys – BC Regional Winner

The RBC Training Ground British Columbia Regional Final was held on March 4 at the Richmond Olympic Oval, where 100 of the top athletes, from regional qualifiers held in Burnaby, Prince George, Langley, Kamloops and Victoria, competed in Olympic benchmark tests in front of national sport coaches and scouts.

Avalon Wasteneys, a 19-year-old University of Victoria women’s varsity rower, beat a field of 100 of the province’s top athletes to become RBC Training Ground’s Top Performer from British Columbia.

A Vancouver Island native, originally from Campbell River, Wasteneys earned her way to the regional final based on her performance at the Victoria local qualifier.

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“I came out for fun in Victoria, as my teammate mentioned it to me the night before and I thought why not give it a shot,” Wasteneys exclaimed. “Winning RBC Training Ground definitely gives me a confidence boost. I know I have what it takes to push myself to go farther. Seeing all these Olympic athletes today, I figured if they did it, maybe I can do it too.”

Wasteneys first found national success as a cross-country skier, earning national medals throughout her junior career. In the summer of 2015, she made the decision to switch sports from skiing to rowing. Now a varsity rower at the University of Victoria, she won a silver medal as part of the women’s eight boat at the Canadian University Rowing Championships in November 2016.

With the victory, Wasteneys earns funding from RBC, up to $10,000 for up to three years, to be administered by Rowing Canada and a trip to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.