UNBC’s newest director Charmaine Crooks got her first look at the campus, including the site of the Northern Sport Centre, Friday.
Crooks is a five-time Olympian and won a silver medal in 1984 as part of the Canadian women’s four-by-400m relay team. She carried the flag for Canada during the opening ceremonies at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
Crooks said she hopes to bring her sports expertise to the university’s board of directors.
“Academics and sport are a great mix,” Crooks said. “The sport facility will be a real anchor for the university. It seems as if this is going to be something that is going to inject a lot of enthusiasm. Prince George is a community that is know for coming behind things.”
Crooks was appointed to the board for a three-year term in December. She is replacing Canfor president Jim Shepherd, who served four years on the board.
Crooks said it’s important that the sporting centre and sports programs are accessible to the whole community.
“I think it’s about giving the young people with the potential to be high-level athletes that chance,” Crooks said. “But we need to make sure there are unique programs based on community needs. There is a piece of the pie for everyone. Sport should be fun.”
UNBC has the potential to build a strong sports culture, she said.
“I went to university in the States, in El Paso, Texas. I was recently inducted into my university’s hall of fame. The same day there was a football game on campus, and there were people having tailgate parties all around the university,” Crooks said. “There is a lot of sports history there. We have a chance to build that history.”
UNBC also has the opportunity to host international Olympic athletes training for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“There is no reason why a vibrant city with close access to Vancouver couldn’t attract athletes to come here,” she said. “Some of that groundwork has been done. I’m just one of the runners coming in the rely.”
Crooks served two four-year terms as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is currently a member of the IOC Athletes Commission and IOC Press Commission. She was a founding member of the IOC Ethics Commission and served on the IOC Reform Committee.
She is current member of Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC), a board member of the Canadian Olympic Committee and chairperson of Olympians Canada.
Crooks is an 11-time national champion in 400m and 800m races. In addition she has won gold medals at the Pan American, Commonwealth and World Student Games, and the World Cup.