A local athlete is one step closer to turning his Olympic dreams into a reality.
Last week, Pemberton ski-skier Ethan Hess was announced as one of the 52 athletes selected by Petro Canada to receive a Fuelling Athletes and Coaching Excellence (FACE) Program grant.
Each $10,000 grant goes to a young, up-and-coming athlete who aspires to one day represent Canada at the Olympics, but doesn’t yet qualify for government funding — meaning they aren’t competing on the national development team or squad.
“I was very thrilled to have received it because finances are a big road block in regards to equipment and travelling expenses,” said Hess. “(The grant) will heavily impact my ability to get a new sit ski built and travel, which is everything.”
Aside from financial support, Hess’ inclusion in the prestigious FACE program also means he and his coach are invited to attend a summit, set to take place in November, where they will receive advice on media training, public speaking, and personal-brand development, as well as learn from Olympians and Paralympians.
Hess currently resides on Cross Country Canada’s prospects team, a squad developed to feed both the development and national cross-country teams.
“Cross Country Canada applied (for the grant) on my behalf,” Hess explained. “We were planning to apply for the grant this year to help out with designing
and building a new sit ski… Sit skis are very unique and need to be designed and built specifically for my ability.”
The 17-year-old athlete, who has spina bifida, has been competing in the sport since he was 14, following his first para-nordic ski at the age of 13. He competed at the BC Winter Games in 2014, going on to compete internationally for the first time at a US Nationals’ event in Salt Lake City in 2015. That year, he also represented the province at the Canada Winter Games, and competed in Canadian nationals, an event he returned to this past winter.
Hess, who hopes to compete at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, said living in Pemberton has been an important factor in fostering his motivation and drive for the sport. “Growing up in a community where there are so many athletes and where all my friends were so active and did lots of sports really has made me more competitive and inspired me when I was younger to be fitter,” he said.
The grant will also help Hess fund more time working directly with his coach, Jessica Heyes, with whom he started working this past season. “Working with Jessica has completely changed my performance in training and on race day,” said Hess. “With this FACE grant we will be able to meet more regularly to do training sessions in the winter.”
These extra training sessions will no doubt have a crucial impact on Hess’ ability to reach his goals for the upcoming ski season. “I want to set personal record times and earn myself a place on the 2018 Paralympic team,” he said.