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The year in sports

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What a year it was.

Every year another batch of Whistler athletes pushes the limits, taking on the world and each other, sometimes coming out ahead.

But while Whistler is home to some of the top mountain athletes in the country, including past, present and future Olympic heroes, our elite athletes are still just a small part of our local sports community. From our local ski club to our high school soccer team to the weekly Loonie Races, it's clear that the spirit of competition is alive and well here. It's not all about winning, either, but participation - and Whistler's many athletes can always be counted on to show up, and do their best. Person for person, I'd wager that Whistler is one of the most active towns in the world.

We start 'em young here. It seems that every kid in town is active. There are just over 1,000 school age children in Whistler, and yet we manage to field the full spectrum of youth hockey teams, soccer teams, and baseball and softball teams. A girl's hockey program started up this year, and a winter basketball league is in its second year.

We have one of the highest per capita enrolments in gymnastics in all of B.C.

The ski, freestyle ski, and snowboard clubs have full rosters of kids and coaches. The figure skating club is strong as well.

We have a core of kids that have been featured in ski, snowboard and mountain bike movies, and show up to school dressed head to toe by their sponsors. I've been passed by 13-year-olds in Loonie Races that ride like they were born in the saddle.

There are half a dozen martial arts programs underway with strong turnouts among kids as well.

And our Whistler Dance Academy dancers win gold medals at every contest they enter with their incredibly athletic performances. The list goes on.

In July, Whistler and Vancouver were named as the hosts of the 2010 Winter Games, and some of the most emotional locals that day were the younger skiers who knew that they could one day be representing their country at home.

Some of the Olympic critics were right - Whistler doesn't really need to host the Olympics. But I can't think of another town anywhere that has the athletes we have, and that deserves to host the Games as much as we do. Although Whistler will increase its global visibility, and we're going to get a few new facilities out of the Olympics, there's no doubt in my mind that we're doing it for the love of sports.

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