THE 2012 Summer Olympic Games kick off Friday in London and 10 athletes with strong ties to the North Shore will be there fighting for golden glory.
We'll be well represented on the water as two rowers, a sailor and two windsurfers will test the waves of England, as will one swimmer, one gymnast and one runner. The best bet for a medal will be plying his trade on the velodrome wood while another kid who started her career as a toddler on a rocking horse will try her luck riding a real jumper in equestrian.
Here are snapshot bios of the North Shore contenders along with their event schedules (all times are listed as PDT): Athlete: Zach Bell Sport: Track cycling, omnium
Schedule (omnium consists of six different races): Flying lap, Aug. 4, 2: 30 a.m.; 30-km points race, Aug. 4, 8: 54 a.m.; Elimination race, Aug. 4, 10: 20 a.m.; 4-km individual pursuit, Aug. 5, 2 a.m.; 15-km scratch race, Aug. 5, 9: 01 a.m.; 1-km time trial, Aug. 5, 10: 16 a.m.
London outlook: Zach Bell is a native of the Yukon so he might know a thing or two about mining for gold. He moved to North Vancouver in 2008 and has since established himself as a major player on the world track cycling scene. He's likely the North Shore athlete with the best shot at a medal - he won a world championship in the omnium in 2010 and in 2011 was named the event's World Cup winner as best finishers throughout the season. He won't be blinded by the shiny Olympic glare either - he competed at the 2008 Games, finishing seventh in the points race and 12th in the madison.
His event, sometimes known as the decathlon of cycling, wraps up with its final race on Sunday morning, Aug. 5 - prime viewing time for Canadian cycling fans looking to enjoy a medal ceremony along with their weekend brunch.
Athlete: Nikola Girke Sport: Sailing, RS-X (windsurfing)
Potential schedule (subject to weather): Two races per day July 31-Aug. 2, Aug. 4-5; medal race Aug. 7, 6 a.m.
London outlook: West Vancouver native Nikola Girke is one of the rare Canadian athletes who has competed in two different disciplines at different Olympic Games. In 2004 she and a partner raced a 470 sailboat to 13th place. In 2008 Girke went solo, placing 17th in RS-X windsurfing. She's back on the board in 2012 and has been climbing the rankings since Beijing. With a 10th place showing at the 2012 world windsurfing championships, Girke has an outside shot at sailing onto the podium if she can string together a bunch of good races.
Looking past London, she'll need to take up a third different discipline if she hopes to compete at the 2016 Games - the International Sailing Federation voted earlier this year to replace windsurfing with kiteboarding at the next Olympics.
Athlete: Zac Plavsic Sport: Sailing, RS-X (windsurfing)
Potential schedule (subject to weather): Two races per day July 31-Aug. 2, Aug. 4-5; medal race Aug. 7, 5 a.m.
London outlook: Canada has one man and one woman competing in Olympic windsurfing and they both come from West Vancouver. Zac Plavsic is the man for Canada, coming off a 23rdplace finish at his first Olympics in 2008. He booked his ticket to London with a 16th-place showing at the 2012 world windsurfing championships and finished 12th at the same event in 2011.
He's spent a lot of time in the British seaside town of Weymouth, the host site for Olympic sailing, and is confident that he can harness the fierce winds that blow in off the English Channel. In pre-Olympic test races he has shown that he can hang with the best in the world and will have an outside shot at hitting the podium.
Athlete: Michael Wilkinson Sport: Rowing, men's four
Potential schedule (subject to weather): heats, July 30, 2: 40 a.m.; repechages, July 31, 2 a.m.; semifinals, Aug. 2, 2: 10 a.m.; final, Aug. 4, 2: 30 a.m.
London outlook: Rower Michael Wilkinson is part of a North Vancouver sibling duo looking to score in London. Little sis Lauren is in the big boat - the women's eight - for Canada while Michael will pull with the men's four.
Michael competed in men's double sculls at the 2011 world championships, finishing fifth in the B final (11th overall) to qualify that boat for the Games. This will be his first Olympics.
Athlete: Lauren Wilkinson Sport: Rowing, women's eight
Potential schedule (subject to weather): heats, July 29, 3: 50 a.m.; repechages, July 31, 2: 50 a.m.; final, Aug. 2, 4: 30 a.m.
London outlook: 22-year old Lauren, Michael's younger sister, will add her power to the sport's glam event, the eight. She's had good success as a junior, helping Canada finish fourth in 2009, third in 2010 and first in 2011 in women's eights at the under-23 world championships.
Lauren graduated from Princeton in 2011 with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, but it will take more brawn than brains for Canada to race to a medal in this grueling sport.
Athlete: Jessica Smith Sport: Athletics, women's 800 m
Potential schedule: Round 1, Aug. 8, 8: 35 a.m.; semifinals, Aug. 9, 11: 30 a.m.; final, Aug. 11, noon.
London outlook: Time seems to be on the side of North Vancouver's Jessica Smith. As a 22-year-old middle distance runner, she's still seemingly scratching the surface of her potential yet here she is off to her first Olympic Games. Time certainly was on her side in qualifying for London - she beat the all-important Olympic A standard by just four hundredths of a second and then, needing a third-place finish at the national championships to secure her berth, held off Canadian record holder Diane Cummins by nine-hundredths of a second to place third.
Her times will need to come down even more if she is going to make it all the way to the final in London but Smith is certainly an athlete on the rise - in making the A standard she became just the fourth Canadian woman ever to run the 800-metre race in less than two minutes.
Athlete: Tiffany Foster Sport: Equestrian, jumping
Potential schedule: Individual - First qualifier, Aug. 4, 2: 30 a.m.; second qualifier, Aug. 5, 3 a.m.; third qualifier, Aug. 6, 6 a.m.; final round A, Aug. 8, 2 a.m.; final round B, Aug. 8, 6: 55 a.m. Team - Qualifier, Aug. 4, 2: 30 a.m.; round 1, Aug. 5, 3 a.m.; round 2, Aug. 6, 6 a.m.
London outlook: North Vancouver native Tiffany Foster has made huge leaps in her sport in the past year. Well, technically it was Victor, her 10-year-old Dutch warmblood horse, who was making the leaps but together they've risen to great heights. Since 2006 Foster has worked at the stables owned by Olympic show jumping champion Eric Lamaze and in 2011 she began following in her boss's footsteps, scoring strong results in international equestrian competitions. Her first big win came at Spruce Meadows a year ago and she hasn't looked back since, scoring impressive results and earning a spot on the Canadian Equestrian Team. She and Victor have many more hurdles they need to clear but if they do so with speed and accuracy they could make the leap onto the podium.
Athlete: Hunter Lowden Sport: Sailing, men's 49er
Potential schedule: Races 1-11, July 30-Aug. 3; races 12-15, Aug. 5-6, medal race, Aug. 8, 5 a.m.
London outlook: West Vancouver's Hunter Lowden and partner Gordon Cook will be looking to ride the waves to the head of the pack in the 49er class sailing event. The pair have been racing together since 2010 and booked their place at the Games with a 21st-place finish at the 2012 49er world championships in May. Lowden will be competing in his first Olympic Games.
Athlete: Blake Worsley Sport: Swimming, men's 200-m freestyle
Schedule: Heats, July 29, 2: 20 a.m.; semifinals, July 29, 11: 37 a.m.; final, July 30, 11: 41 a.m.
London outlook: North Vancouver native Blake Worsley got his start in the sport of swimming at the age of eight when his mom bribed him with a trip to McDonald's to get him to join a training session at the North Shore Winter Club. He says he cried, nearly drowning, as he hung onto the rope all the way through his first ever race but he stuck with it. Two years later he moved with his family to Steamboat Springs, Colo. - he now calls Victoria home - but he'll always remember the North Shore as the sight of his first plunge.
Worsley won the 200-m freestyle race at the Olympic trials in March and has spent the time since then trying to shave seconds off of his time to keep up with the big guns in London.
Athlete: Brittany Rogers Sport: Women's artistic gymnastics
Schedule: Qualification, July 29; team final, July 31, 8: 30 a.m.; individual all-around final, Aug. 2, 8: 30 a.m.; individual event finals, Aug. 5-7
London outlook: Coquitlam's Brittany Rogers gets honourary North Shore status because she's honed her skills with North Vancouver's Flicka Gymnastics Club. The high flyer was nearly grounded by a serious ankle injury suffered in April of 2010 that had doctors baffled. Three surgeons later she finally found a fix and walked again for the first time on Christmas day, 2010. In 2011 she came back to finish fourth in the all-around competition at the national championships and was later named Sport B.C.'s Harry Jerome Comeback Award winner for the year. A strong showing at the Olympic trials in June vaulted her up Canada's depth charts and onto the Olympic team, completing her comeback.