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Big B.C. Games stage no problem

Pemby paddler King takes three medals in competitive debut



It didn't take long for a young Pemberton paddler to become King at the B.C. Summer Games in Abbotsford.

In Shakiri King's first competition, he nabbed three medals, including two golds. He won the 200-metre learn-to-train individual canoe race and the boys/girls 500-metre open canoe race with team members Keisa Ayame Bleiler, Asha Cartagena-Senanayake and Ydris Hunter of Vancouver. He also took the silver in the six-person boys/girls 500-metre open with Bleiler, Cartagena-Senanayake, fellow Pembertonian Quinn Phare, Kenjiro Pearson MacMartin and Gillian K. Kinloch Helliwell.

King was most proud of his win in the individual race since he had to figure out a larger vessel than he was used to racing, but he made it work anyway.

"It was a really big boat that I wasn't used to," he said. "That was the first race I ever won by myself so I was pretty proud."

Admittedly, King was in the zone when he hopped into the boat, and held off Maple Ridge's Alexander Dmitriev by 0.66 seconds. The pair were far and away the class of the race, getting past everyone else by over seven seconds.

"I couldn't really tell (where everyone was) because I was really into the moment. It was my first race ever," he said. "At the start, I got them all.

"It was upstream, too, so it was pretty intense."

Without knowing what to expect, King was pleased with the atmosphere around the races, feeling comfortable even on the province's biggest stage.

"I felt pretty stressed because it was my first competition and I wanted to win and not come back without a medal," he said. "Overall, it was pretty fun. No one was over-the-top competitive. Everyone was all relaxed and friendly."

King was dedicated to training five days a week to prepare for the Games, but for the team events, many of his comrades were from the city so they weren't able to paddle together until they all assembled in Abbotsford.

"We just practiced the day before at the river, so that's the only time we really got to practice, but it turned out great," he said. "We were all already used to meeting new people and trying new things."

After one more race, with much lower stakes, in Maple Ridge in early August, King will focus his sights on a bigger event — the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg next year.

"I'll train until the lake freezes and once the lake freezes, I'll go to the gym, run and try to keep in shape for the tryouts next year," he said.

Phare, a Pemberton veteran, also secured his share of medals at the Games, winning silver in the 500-metre learn-to -train canoe race and bronze in the 2,000-metre open canoe event individually. As a team member, he won gold in the boys' 500-metre open four-man race and the 2,000-metre two-man open race, as well as the aforementioned six-person silver alongside King.

The girls were also successful, as Jill Esseltine and Madeline Beaudry won silver with the 500-metre open kayak race, while Beaudry and Alexis Balsamo snagged second in the 500-metre open canoe race.

Complete results are online at