By Adam Eisenbarth
It was a warm summer afternoon, but for a few hours, young golfers at Gull Lake Golf Course remembered Canada’s golden winter.
Olympic athletes Lyndon Rush and Shannon Szabados were on hand July 23, along with Paralympic athlete Viviane Forest. They were special guests at the fifth annual Gull Lake Golf Foundation Pro-Am and Skins Game.
Rush, a bronze medalist in bobsleigh, visited Rimbey Christian School earlier this year and says it’s important to participate in events with children.
“We’ve been kind of made into role models. It’s a nice responsibility and if you can instill good values into kids, I think it’s valuable.”
Like Szabados and Forest, Rush had his medal available for the golfers to see and hold.
“It might inspire them, it might not. They might forget about it but if it inspires a kid that’s awesome.”
Forest, a Paralympic skier, had five medals with her from the Vancouver Olympics. Her Vancouver medal haul, coupled with gold medals from the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics in goalball, make her quite a decorated multi-sport athlete.
The event was special for the Edmonton athlete as she was impressed by the skill level of the young golfers in the Adult-Child Tournament earlier that day.
“It’s always good to see the new generation in sports and staying active. To have children five to 15 (years old) playing golf much better than the average person like me, it’s just great to see families active.”
The visually impaired athlete has had success in the last two Summer Olympics, but she won’t participate in the 2012 Games in London, England, as she shifts her focus solely to the Winter Olympics. While she’s busy training, she was happy to take time to enjoy the afternoon at the course.
“The summer is pretty good timing, so that’s great. It’s fun to be out in the country. It’s a very beautiful golf course so it’s great to be here.”
Though four years in between Olympics may seem like a long time, Forest says it will go by fast.
“The first two years are more to build some skill and technique and get in shape. Years three and four…are more about the racing. It seems far, but it’s going to go fast.”
Szabados, a goalie on Canada’s gold medal women’s hockey team, says she’s anxious for that time to pass.
“I wish it was this year already. It’ll be a long wait but it will be worth it. We have the next three years to get in the best shape possible for the next Olympics.”
Much like Rush and Forest, Szabados saw the opportunity to participate in the golf event as a chance to connect with a number of young athletes.
“I think (it’s good) just being in a position where you can do some good and help out, bring the medal out and motivate the young kids and just to support them.”
Life after the 2010 Olympics has been different for many athletes, including Szabados. Young golfers lined up for photos and autographs from the three world class athletes.
The extra attention has taken some adjustments.
“It’s weird because growing up I was a painfully shy kid, so kind of being thrust into the spotlight has been kind of difficult but I’ve learned to sort of deal with it,” said Szabados.
Of course, as Forest notes, the extra attention has its perks as well.
“There’s way more invitations and free supper everywhere,” she said with a laugh before dashing out.