Richmond’s best-known Olympic athlete retired from competitive swimming in April, passing up the possibility of representing Canada in a fourth Summer Games in London.
Had Brian Johns, 29, qualified, it would have been the most Games ever attended by a Canadian swimmer.
“For me, it was a relatively easy decision to retire,” Johns said at the time. “It was becoming apparent I wasn’t going to be able to come back from the knee injury and swim at the level I expected or needed to. I was trying pretty hard through January to train through the pain, but was limited in what I was able to do in the pool. I’d have some really big ups and downs.”
Johns, who first made the Olympic team at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and also represented Canada at the 2004 Games in Athens and the 2008 Games in Beijing, was inspired to become an Olympian watching Mark Tewskbury win the Olympic gold medal in 1992. Tewksbury is the current chef de mission for Canada at the 2012 London Games.
No doubt, Johns has or will inspire future Olympians himself.
Countless young Richmond athletes are currently honing their skills, many with Olympic aspirations of their own. While certainly incomplete, following is a list of locals poised to represent Canada at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Caleb Clarke, soccer: After signing his first pro contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC earlier this year, the Major League Soccer squad loaned the talented 19-year-old striker to FC Rot-Weiss Erfurt of Germany last month. Clarke finished the 2012 United Soccer Development Academy regular season as the second highest scorer in the league with 24 goals in 23 matches in the 78-team league.
Summer Clarke, soccer: An integral member of the Richmond Red Hot Selects during their back-to-back (2011 and 2012) under-17 girls’ Provincial A Cup soccer championships, Clarke, 17, also suited up for Canada’s under-17 team at the recent CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament in Guatemala where she displayed her quick pace and scoring ability netting six goals to help Canada take first place. She’ll rejoin the team in September for the FIFA under-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
Evan Dunfee, race walking: Having come up just shy of making the qualifying standard for the 2012 London Olympics, Dunfee, 21, seems more determined that ever to make the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He recently won the men’s 10-kilometre race walk at the Canadian championships and the North American, Central American and Caribbean under-23 championships in Mexico two weeks ago.
Bea Francisco, field hockey: Currently tending goal for the University of B.C. Thunderbirds women’s field hockey team, Francisco, 20, earned her first international cap in 2010 playing for Field Hockey Canada’s senior women’s team at home against Chile.
Anmol Mattu, basketball: Seemingly always ahead of the curve, Mattu, 16, has been the starting point guard on the Steveston-London Sharks senior girls’ basketball team since Grade 8, and the perennial MVP in the Richmond high school league. And despite only being five-foot-three, she helped Canada’s Cadette women’s national team to a third-place finish at the 2011 FIBA Americas under-16 championship last June in Merida, Mexico.
Colin Schaap, rowing: Noted for his community involvement and helping others less fortunate, Schaap, 18, is also talented rower who helped Canada’s men’s four to an eight-place finish at the 2011 World Junior Rowing Championships and contributed to both the 2010 and 2011 Canadian junior heavyweight eight winning teams. He’s currently a sophomore at Boston’s Northeastern University.
Jason Scott, gymnastics: A member of Canada’s senior national men’s gymnastics team for the last two years, Scott, 21, was seventh all-around and fourth on the high bar at the recent national championships in Regina. He was fourth on the pommel horse at last year’s Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Noemie Thomas, swimming: Swimming Canada’s 2011 female youth swimmer of the year, Thomas, 16, trains several times each week under the guidance of UBC Dolphins Swim Club coach Tom Rushton, always with an eye to better than the time before. At the 2011 summer nationals, her personal best of 59.65 seconds in the women’s 100-metre butterfly earned her a Canadian championship. She also won gold in the women’s 50-metre event, and later in the year reached the final at the 2011 junior worlds in Lima, Peru.
Robert Watson, gymnastics: Elite Canada’s surprise all-around champion for 2012, Watson, 18, displayed his consistency by placing third all-around at the recent national championships in Regina and in the process bypassed athletes who had competed at previous world championships and Olympic Games. He also finished atop the podium in all of his event finals by winning gold on the floor exercise, silver on high bar, and bronze on the parallel bars. Watson placed 17th all around at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010.
Joshua Stuart, gymnastics: A member of Canada’s junior national gymnastics team, Stuart, 16, placed first on rings and high bar and second on the parallel bars at the 2012 Canadians in Regina, after placing fourth on the high bar at the Pacific Rim Championships earlier this year in Everett, Wash. He was second all around at Elite Canada.