Students at Myrtle Philip Community School have received a personal challenge from local Olympian Mercedes Nicoll to spend the next month keeping active in an initiative spearheaded by the B.C. Medical Association (BCMA).
Joined by Whistler doctors Kristin Johnston and Fern von der Porten at the school on Monday, Oct. 7, Nicoll encouraged hundreds of students to be "Olympic strong" and commit to 30 days of physical activity and healthy eating.
This is the second year that the BCMA has run the Be Active Every Day challenge, which sees local physicians make school visits to help students learn to set fitness and nutritional goals from a doctor's perspective. Only seven per cent of Canadian children currently meet the recommended minimum amount of daily physical activity, said a BCMA press release.
More than 4,000 students from 33 communities across the province are participating in the challenge, but Myrtle Philip students were the only ones to receive a personal visit from an Olympian as well.
Nicoll, once a Myrtle Philip student herself who participated in a huge number of sports growing up, said she got involved with the BCMA program because she wanted to urge children to follow the same active path she did. In fact, it was during Nicoll's first year at the school that she took up snowboarding, setting her on a course to become a two-time Olympian in halfpipe competition.
"Growing up in Whistler and knowing all of the after-school activities, I just never stopped," she said. "Now, I'm just trying to get kids more involved in sport. With the obesity rate going up, it's really important."
Nicoll and Penticton-based mogul skier Andi Naude recorded a series of weekly video messages that will be played for students participating in the challenge over the next month. In the messages, Nicoll and Naude encourage students to keep active alongside them as they train and work to qualify for the 2014 Olympics.
Part of the challenge issued to Myrtle Philip students Monday was laid out with key numbers to focus on over the course of the month — to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day, to spend two hours or fewer on the computer or watching television, to spend at least one hour per day being active, and to consume zero sugar-sweetened drinks during the challenge.
Meanwhile, Nicoll will be keeping up her end of the deal as she continues training at the Whistler Athletes' Centre's High Performance Centre gym before she can get back on her board.
"I'm just waiting for snow," she said. "There's a World Cup in Finland in December, so really we're just waiting for more snow to fall to see where the first halfpipe will open."
Nicoll placed 16th and finished as the top Canadian at the first World Cup event of the season, which took place at Cardrona, New Zealand, in August. The contest also acted as the first of four qualifying events towards Sochi for the 29 year old.
After the World Cup event scheduled for Dec. 13 at Ruka, Finland, Nicoll will have competition stops at Colorado's Copper Mountain before Christmas and at Stoneham, Que., in mid-January that will determine if she makes a third trip to the Games in 2014.