Runner Casey Atkin, a Stelly’s Secondary grad, hopes a program for girls in the region will help spark interest in athletics. (Arthur Ward @arthurImages)

Fast and Female event hopes to empower Victoria-area young women

High-level female athletes leading a day of inspiration and activity at PISE

Given the right opportunity and encouragement, young women can find their stride and accomplish great things both within and outside the field of competition.

An event to help empower young women through sport is coming up on October 22 at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE) in Saanich. Fast and Female Champ Chat will bring together a group of sport ambassadors to engage and chat with girls age eight to 18. One of the organizers is track athlete Mariah Kelley, a hopeful for Canada at the 2020 Tokyo, Japan Olympic Games in middle distance running. She says sport challenges people in so many ways and the Fast and Female event will expose girls to activities and discussions about the athletes’ experiences both in sport and in life.

Kelly will be joined at the event by Canadian athletes from the Victoria area, like Jamie Broder who participated in beach volleyball at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, track athlete and UVic alum Rachel Francois and Jessica Furlan, Canada’s record holder in the 3000 metre steeplechase.

The Saanich Peninsula’s own Casey Atkin will also be there — the Stelly’s Secondary grad is a track athlete, competing in various distances, including the 800 meters. Atkin is currently part of Athletics Canada’s NextGen program, working with young athletes to reach the podium at various national and international competitions.

These days, Atkin said she’s training seven days a week, twice a day, to help her reach her goals. It’s this kind of perseverance and dedication that she credits for her successes — and for helping her face challenges in life as well.

“Taking part in (Fast and Female) is my way of trying to give something back,” Atkin said, “And for all of us, for all of the opportunity that we got in our careers.”

Fast and Female, founded in 2005 by Canadian cross country skier and Olympic gold medalist Chandra Crawford, will be a day of physical activity, yoga, autographs and an inspirational chat with the ambassadors. It’s overall goal is to change a trend that sees girls quitting sport at a much higher rate than boys in their early teens.

“We often learn that life isn’t always easy,” Kelly said. “I feel that for me, track and field has been the greatest teacher of perseverance and how to never give up in order to reach the goal that I set for myself.”

It’s that lesson she said they hope to teach young women. And while they hope to attract potential athletes to take their sport to the next level, Kelly said it’s also a way to instill lessons that can last a lifetime — even when a career in competitive sport has ended.

“Our goal is to empower women to not be afraid to dream big,” Kelly said. “Women are capable of doing so many great things.”

Fast and Female takes place Oct. 22 at PISE from 12 to 3 p.m. To register, visit fastandfemale.com.

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