Former Sun Peaks and Kamloops local Tate Solomonson is in the midst of competing in biathlon at the Canada Winter Games as part of Team BC.
Solomonson, a recent high school graduate, has big goals as an athlete and academic, in addition to being an inspiration to other emerging youth who want to balance sports and academics.
Solomonson is currently in P.E.I. competing. On Feb. 20 he placed 17th in the men’s 7.5 km sprint and on Feb. 21 he competed in the male 10 km pursuit, placing 21st. On Thursday, Feb. 23, he will compete in the 12.5 km individual male biathlon. It’s his second time at the Games after competing in Olympic Canoeing in Niagara last summer.
Solomonson spoke to SPIN shortly before the Canada Winter Games about his training, prospects and plans for the future. He said he hopes to be picked for the biathlon relay team on Saturday, Feb. 25, but it‘s dependent on how he performs in other races. He dreams of bringing home a gold medal in the relay race.
“Canada Games is a once in a lifetime [opportunity] … I feel so honoured that I’m going to compete for the province,” Solomonson said.
Biathlon combines skiing and shooting, and the sport offers Solomonson a challenge.
“[Biathlon] is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The sport [involves] massive aerobic capacity skiing at super high altitudes. You’re out of breath. You’re cold. And then you have to calm down, relax and shoot,” he told SPIN.
The 18-year-old started biathlon at age 12 when he was an air cadet in Kamloops. At his first competition in Vernon, he learned about the Sovereign Lake Nordic Development Academy program that helps athletes balance their academic and athletic careers.
By the time he was 17, Solomonson joined the Sovereign Lake club and began competing in national competitions. He moved away from home to pursue his athletic career, and currently billets with a family in Coldstream.
His program allowed three hours a day for training and another three for school, combined with evening and weekend training. Solomonson extended his schooling to ensure he could take all of the science classes he wanted in order to later pursue an education in science and nursing at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO).
Solomonson will attend UBCO in the fall, due in part to the school’s unique programming for student-athletes. The university partners with Sovereign Lake Nordic Development Academy, ensuring athletes can continue their sport throughout their post-secondary education.
“[The program is] completely one of a kind because it is the only partnership with a ski team,” Solomonson said.
The partnership accommodates athletes’ competition schedules, allowing them to take classes online while away, for example.
“We’re pretty lucky to have that kind of support from the school,” he said.
Now that he’s graduated high school, Solomonson’s days are spent training and working at a ski shop.
Solomonson said he watched many friends drop their athletic careers to prioritize education and felt he didn’t have a role model for his combined academic and athletic dreams. He hopes to inspire other athletes to follow their passion and find ways to balance athletics and education.
“I hope that my story can encourage kids that you don’t have to just go to school, graduate and go straight into university. I totally upset the normal path. I stayed in high school for six years, I moved away from home to do my sport … I hope that more kids can [follow this path], if that’s what they’re passionate about,” Solomonson said.
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