Further to our story last week on Qualicum Beach standout Thomas Riva, who made history in these parts recently when he garnered gold and silver medals at the Canada Summer Games, The NEWS caught up with the dedicated athlete to get his take on raising the bar.
Played Aug. 2-17 in Sherbrooke, Quebec, the national showcase, held every four years, featured over 1,200 athletes competing in 17 sports.
“It was great — the city of Sherbrooke did a fantastic job hosting it, and it was kinda cool to be around so many different types of athletes,” Riva, 21, recounted from Victoria when we finally caught up with him.
“Oh yeah — I definitely wanted to medal,” he answered quickly when asked if he had any expectations heading into the games, adding “I thought the 800m was my better event, but I thought I definitely had a good shot in the 1,500 final as well.”
As it turned out it was the 1,500m event in which he won gold (with a personal best time of 3.45:87), and his silver came in the 800m (1:48.91), an event in which he is currently ranked fourth in Canada.
The 1,500m race was decided on the home stretch when he pulled away in the last 100 meters, knocking a full four seconds off his previous best time.
“It was close but I just kicked it into high gear. It was pretty sweet,” he chuckled.
Riva, a Kwalikum Secondary grad and the younger of two siblings, honed his skills with Oceanside Track & Field for about eight years.
“I pretty much grew up with the sport,” he said.
The Canada Summer Games capped off a season — his third with UVic — that started indoors back in January. Riva is part of a UVic Thunderbirds track and field team of around 18 young men and women.
“It was a really good stepping stone for competing in multi-sport games and for representing Canada,” he said.
Riva, an engineering major, will now get a few weeks off to recharge the batteries before starting cross country in September.
Contacted via email (from Europe), UVic cross country/track head coach Brent Fougner had great things to say about his Oceanside standout.
“Thomas has a great work ethic and his determination to excel combined with natural talents make him a pleasure to coach,” said Fougner, who was a track coach for Team Canada at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, and is an eight-time CIS Coach of the Year heading into his 25th season leading UVic’s middle distance program.
He added, “Thomas came to UVic from a very successful youth program in the Parksville Qualicum area where knowledgable coaches guided him, developing his speed and running technique. Thomas’s unassuming and humbling nature is necessary in a successful runner where hours of running each week, most of the time alone, is not a sport for the prima donnas.
“His recent success this past year has come from his ability to gain self confidence in his races, allowing his competitiveness to take over,” said Fougner, who added, “Thomas has all the tools to go a long way in the sport.”
FOR THE RECORD:
Two other OTFC graduates have competed at the Canada Summer Games:
Olympic high jumper Mike Mason from Nanoose Bay is the only other OTFCer to medal — gold in 2005 in Regina.
Parksville’s Alycia Butterworth, currently attending the University of Idaho on a track and cross country scholarship, competed in the 2009 games in Charlottetown, placing fifth in steeplechase.