Sun Peaks local and former Olympian Elli Terwiel was recently inducted into the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame.
Elli is being honoured for her time competing in the NCAA ranks at the University of Vermont and for participating in slalom events at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.
Anne Terwiel, Elli’s mother, says Elli has always received a lot of support from the community.
“I am just so happy for her. [Her induction] is so validating in so many ways,” Anne says. “I hope that through her induction, the community can see what a difference they made in an athlete’s life.”
Like many toddlers born to ski-avid families, Elli put on her first pair of skis before turning two. After moving to what was then Tod Mountain in the early ‘90s, Anne and her husband George quickly enrolled both Elli and her brother in the Sun Peaks Alpine Club (SPAC).
Anne said they enrolled the kids in SPAC not because they had any plans for them to get into ski racing, but because they thought it would be nice for them to meet other kids who were good skiers and belonged to like-minded families.
When Elli was six, Olympic gold medallist Nancy Greene Raine and Al Raine moved to town. The Terwiels were hanging out at Cahilty Lodge with the Raines as staff members assembled the trophy case. Out came the boxes, and so did Nancy’s Olympic medals, trophies and World Cup crystal globe.
“I was chatting with somebody just off the lobby when Elli came around the corner with this huge crystal globe in her arms,” Anne said. “I freaked out, of course, afraid she’d break the thing. But Nancy Greene shared where all those shiny trophies and medals had come from, and the rest was history.”
Although Elli was aware of the Olympics from an early age, she recalls her family never expected Elli would race in the games herself.
“Elli just kept progressing, and at some point, the Olympics were the next logical step,” Anne says. “She made the provincial team, then the national team’s developmental team, then the national team, which ultimately led to multiple division one universities in the United States recruiting her.”
When asked how Elli’s career affected her, Anne says she didn’t realize until Elli retired that she wasn’t sleeping very well around the time of competitions.
Anne explains no matter how good you are at ski racing, it’s still an outdoor, adrenaline sport. The weather could change during a race, ongoing travel could cause severe fatigue or injury could impact your health and career.
Elli sustained multiple injuries during her career, and recovered from a concussion shortly before the 2014 Olympics. In fact, her Olympic race was her first time skiing again after taking two months to recover.
“Often, when I must do something tough, I think of Elli in that gate at the games,” Anne says. “Having just come back from a major concussion standing there and going, ‘I damn well belong here and this could be my day.’ I continually think of her when I think of resilience.”
Around the same time Elli sustained multiple concussions, research began to surface concerning the hazards of repeated concussions. Knowing the risks and having already achieved many of her lifelong goals, Elli decided to hang up her hat to “have a working brain at 80.”
Anne says her daughter received so much support from friends and strangers alike leading up to the Olympics. Now, she continues to be honoured through her Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame recognition.
“Our whole family has yet to find a way to return the favour,” Anne said. “So many people went to considerable lengths to help our kid achieve her dream. It was just incredible. I look forward to putting the same energy into somebody else’s child one day.”