Vancouver ringette champion behind Olympic scenes

February is an exciting time for the city of Vancouver, with the 2010 Olympic Winter Games being welcomed to the city. For Fraser Valley Avalanche captain, Jill Lange, the Games will be an exciting adventure she’s been anticipating for a long time.

As Manager of Delegation Registration Meetings for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC), Jill is in charge of coordinating each National Olympic Committee’s final meeting with the organizing committee. As each NOC arrives in Vancouver, every detail must be finalized before the rest of their team can arrive and compete.

"This position is fascinating," Jill comments. "In working as a liaison between the various functional areas of VANOC and the NOCs, my team really gets to know every aspect of VANOCs operations, and see the differences between how each country’s NOC operates. From the largest delegations, to those who only send one athlete, each is unique and has their own expectations. It is fulfilling to know we’ll (hopefully) help them start their experience of the Games in a positive way."

Some of the exciting perks of her job thus far have been her travels to Germany where she managed meetings to coordinating IOC members. Most recently she’s moved into the athlete’s village where she will be splitting time between Vancouver and Whistler during the Games.

Years ago, when Vancouver was named as the host city for the 2010 Olympic Games, Jill knew she had to be there. "I always wanted to compete at the Olympics when I was younger but I also knew the love I had for my sport of ringette would likely not allow this to happen as an athlete.

When the opportunity to be part of the Games through another avenue appeared, I jumped on it. Two years ago, I moved to Vancouver and applied to work with VANOC. I’ll never forget when I got the call to offer me a position with the committee. I knew the next couple years of my life would be a wild ride."

The Olympic Games have always been exciting for Lange. She attributes the start of her passion of the Olympic spirit to the 1988 Games when her dad threw her in the air after Ben Johnson won his gold. "Every time an Olympic Games came around, our family was always glued to the TV. We would stay up late, or get up early to make sure we didn’t miss a minute of it.” She goes on to say that “from Simon Whitfield’s gold, to Catriona Le May Doan’s repeat titles and Donovan Bailey’s golden sprints, I was hooked. To me, the Olympics magnify human success and challenge. They allow us to look across borders and play on the same field. We are human; we struggle together, and celebrate together."

Don’t be mistaken by Jill’s humility however. As an athlete herself in the sport of ringette, Jill has represented Canada at two world championship events in the past eight years, winning silver at both. As current captain of the Fraser Valley Avalanche ringette team, she brings a record of 8 national gold medals and almost 20 years of experience to the roster. Jill credits her ringette career with giving her many useful tools that she carries over into her work with VANOC. "I can compare this job to the work that is done in preparing to play at a National or World Championship in many ways. I work with a team, and each of us has to do our part, and do it well in order to make the whole event successful. We have to be focused and committed in our practice because we only get one shot. My ringette career has given me the ability to work under this pressure."

Now, for the biggest question the ringette community is asking: Can Jill help get ringette into the Olympic Games? Her answer: "Well, I have taught my colleagues from France, Greece, Lithuania, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Switzerland and Armenia exactly what ringette is. Spreading the passion for the sport is the first step and I feel that I’ve definitely done that.” When asked if she sees ringette as an Olympic sport: “Nothing would make me happier. It would be so amazing to showcase our sport on that level. Regardless though, ringette is an amazing sport enjoyed by thousands of people. No matter what the pull of the Olympics was growing up, I knew I could not leave this game. I just had to find another way to make my Olympic dream come true. To have been able to play ringette at the highest level and to be involved in the Games this closely is something I never imagined for me. It is going to be incredible."

The Fraser Valley Avalanche wish Jill good luck at the Games and anticipates her return to the team as they finish the season, competing for a spot at the National Championships in April.