With three Olympians and another athlete headed to the Paralympics, the University of Lethbridge will be extremely well represented in London. And rather than this occurrence being a blip on the radar, Horns Athletics track coach Larry Steinke (BA '94) says it is an emerging trend.
"We're a small community and I think in some ways that gives us a lot of positives in being able to support the athletes that are here," says Steinke, the Athletics Canada Throws coach who will also attend the London Olympics. "You don't get lost in the masses here as you would in some of the larger centres."
The 1st Choice Savings Centre for Sport and Wellness, coupled with the Community Sports Stadium and a developing sports medicine clinic make the University a very attractive destination for aspiring athletes.
"We're a very unique facility, especially for the throwing events, where you just don't have this capability in the rest of Canada. Every day I have to remind our athletes that this is not able to be done everywhere else," he says, referring to individual training sessions twice per day and access to both indoor and outdoor facilities. "It really is becoming a destination place."
Jim (BASc '09) and Heather Steacy did not have to go far to access the U of L, they are Lethbridge products, but they understand how lucky they are to have the University as their home base and Steinke as their coach.
"I can guarantee you I wouldn't be here if not for him," says Jim. "I would have tried to play basketball and been done university in five years and out in the work world by now. There is no way Heather and I would be here without him, he's hands down the best technical coach in North America for the throwing events."
His sister Heather echoes that sentiment, saying she was offered opportunities to train elsewhere but never wavered in her commitment to stay home.
"I never considered going to the United States for school because I wanted to stay with Larry and I couldn't have made a better choice," she says. "I have a lot of friends who took that route and trained with people who didn't have the knowledge base he has. I couldn't take that chance and I'm really grateful he's as patient as he is and willing to put in the hours he does, it's fantastic and I'm really excited he gets to come to London with us."
Steinke says that the University has attracted a number of graduate athletes from DePaul University, another from the University of Washington and still more from the Canadian Olympic Development Team. Liz Gleadle, a University of British Columbia javelin thrower, took a year off from her studies to come to the U of L and train with Steinke.
"I needed to go somewhere with a more focused environment and a coach that could spend time with me full time," she says in advance of her first Olympic appearance. "I knew I wanted to make it to the Olympics and that I could make it happen here."