Olympic cyclist Zach Bell was back on his old stomping ground on Monday.
It is his first trip to the Yukon since competing at the London Olympics in August.
It was Bell’s first visit to his hometown of Watson Lake since shortly after his first Olympic journey at the 2008 Beijing Games.
“I am very excited to finally be able to reach the next generation of kids growing up in Watson Lake,” said Bell in a news release. “I want to help them see all the things that sport can bring to their lives, even in a small community like Watson Lake. It has been many, many years since I have been able to be back and this will be the first time since I have been competitive in cycling that I will make my way there. This community made me who I am and they have always been behind the things I have been doing as much as possible. I hope this can be the start of me helping to return so much of that goodwill.”
Bell, who now lives in Vancouver, spent Monday visiting the Watson Lake schools, meeting with students, giving talks and participating in phys-ed classes.
“This trip is a return to my roots and that is what I want the kids of the community to see. I plan to give a message and then join right in with their active daily routine. I know when I was growing up having an Olympian join my floor hockey game would have been the greatest thing ever.
“I want these kids to understand it is normal people with humble upbringings that make up the Olympic Team, go on to race for teams like SpiderTech, and travel the world just because they stayed involved in sport. It will also be a good way for me to get back to my job of delivering that message of sport and what it can do to change communities.”
Bell, who turned 30 two weeks ago, will be in Whitehorse for the Sport Yukon Awards Night on Thursday at the Whitehorse Westmark Hotel. He is nominated for International Male Athlete of the Year, an award he won three straight times between 2008 and 2010.
At the London Games, Bell placed eighth in the men’s omnium track cycling event. His best result in the six-race omnium was a first-place finish in the 15-kilometre scratch race.
He earned Canada’s spot at the Games in the men’s omnium with a silver-medal performance at the 2012 UCI Track World Championships in April, placing one spot ahead of the eventual Olympic gold medal winner.
Cycling for his Canadian team, SpiderTech, Bell won the Challenge Sprint Pro this past September in Quebec City.
Bell’s visit to the Yukon is also his first since the death of his infant son Paxton Michael Bell on Oct. 16, just three days after birth. In the latter stages of the delivery the umbilical cord stopped providing Paxton with essential nutrients including oxygen, causing severe trauma to the brain.
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