Smithers and Kitimat-born athletes on Team Canada roster in Rio


SMITHERS – Two Northwest-BC born sports champions at the tops of their games are proudly taking their places among the 314 athletes representing Canada at the Summer Olympics that officially open in Rio de Janeiro today.

“On behalf of Skeena-Bulkley Valley residents, and all British Columbians, I want to wish Antje von Seydlitz and Ben Thorne our very best wishes for an amazing Olympics experience,” MP Nathan Cullen said enroute to Haida Gwaii this morning.

“These two world-class athletes are standouts in their sports and fantastic role models for youth across Skeena-Bulkley Valley and beyond.”

Antje von Seydlitz, 25, born in Smithers, is representing Canada in women’s coxed 8 rowing.   Her team, consistently ranked second in the world behind the United States, is pegged as a strong medal contender in Rio and recently won bronze at the 2015 World Championships.  The team is solidly anchored by coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie, 56, who is competing in her eighth Olympics, tying the all-time record for Olympic appearances by a woman.

Antje grew up cross-country skiing before switching to biathlon.  She started rowing in 2008, becoming a world U23 champion just four years later.

Kitimat-born Ben Thorne, 23, credited as one of the best race walkers in Canadian history, is representing Canada in Rio in the men’s 20km race walking event.  

Ben won a bronze medal in the 20km walk at the 2015 IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Beijing, becoming the first Canadian ever to break the 80 minute barrier in the 20km walk. He bettered this time at the 2016 World Race Walking Team Championship in Rome, clocking in at 1:19.55.   Ben is also a two-time medallist at the Summer Universiade, winning team bronze in 2013 and an individual 20km race walk silver in 2015.

A solid distance runner as a youngster, Ben started race walking at age 15, going on to winning the BC high school championships in the event. 

Good luck in Rio, Antje and Ben!

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Contact:               Shelley Browne, 250-877-4140;