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Annual ski tournament pays tribute to Squamish's Mikayla Martin

The Live Like Miki ski cross tournament in Eastern Canada shows the beloved late athlete's wide-ranging influence.
On March 25 to 26, skiers from across Canada paid tribute to Martin in an annual tournament, Live Like Miki, held at Laurentian Ski Hill.

Mikayla Martin's legacy as a talented athlete with a kind spirit is continuing in an annual tournament in North Bay, Ont.

Martin was an accomplished Squamish skier with a sterling record, including a win in the 2018 FIS Junior Freestyle Ski World Championships in Cardrona, New Zealand.

Her life ended all too soon in a mountain biking accident in 2019.

However, in her short time, she touched many lives.

This was evident on the weekend of March 25 to 26, when skiers from across Canada paid tribute to Martin in an annual tournament dubbed Live Like Miki, which was held at Laurentian Ski Hill.

This is the third time the tournament, hosted by the Elite Alpine Ski Cross club, has taken place.

Jason Sullivan, the head coach of the club, said the event was given Martin's namesake because of the extraordinary character of the athlete.

Despite being from another part of Canada, Sullivan had met Martin at an Alpine Canada ski cross camp.

"They invited her to this camp to try out for the team," recalled Sullivan. "And she showed up, and she really lit it up … It was a perfect fit for her. The coaches, we're like, 'Wow, who's this girl? Where did she come from?'"

On the training and competition circuits, Martin would then rub shoulders with members of Sullivan's club, which is located in North Bay, Ont.

It was during these interactions that he and many others found her to be not only an elite athlete, but an uncommonly kind person.

"Mikayla was super awesome with all our athletes. She did things for our athletes that a normal person would [not] do for anybody — especially not knowing people very closely," said Sullivan.

In one case, he remembered, Martin drove 100 kilometres out of her way to give a chocolate, an iTunes gift card, and a get-well-soon card to an athlete who had broken her collarbone. And this was all for someone Martin had known for only three days.

"She was really good with all our athletes in every way, shape, or form — encouraging them, helping coach them, teaching them stuff," he said.

As a result, when Elite Alpine Ski Cross was getting ready to host its first race, flying Martin's flag was a natural decision.

"We were trying to come up with a name," said Sullivan. "And we put it out to the athletes and the athletes said, 'This is a no-brainer. This is what we want. And they wanted it to be 'Live like Miki.'"

Sullivan said that one of the goals of the event is to raise awareness for the Martin memorial fund.

As a tribute to the athlete's memory, the goal of the fund is to provide financial assistance to athletes in need of monetary support to pursue their dreams.

It's still accepting donations via GoFundMe.

For Martin's father, James, the Live Like Miki race is an emotional way to pay homage to his late daughter.

He said that in addition to the numerous attendees, 10 of her national teammates flew out to participate in the race, which was a beautiful show of support.

"It's still really hard. It's been, gosh, three and a half, going on four years now," said James. "She's just such a great human being, and a wonderful person to be around. But, yeah, so it's bittersweet. The loss is still horrible, but it's really touching to see how people remember and want to do things to help other up-and-coming ski racers in her memory. That's really special."

He said it's a wonderful tribute.

"It amazes me that she inspired people who are now inspired to continue doing things to remember her," Martin said.

Her national teammates have also taken steps to display a Miki logo at their ski-tuning tent during events, he said.

He noted that in Squamish, locals have continued to honour her memory with big gestures, such as the creation of Miki's Magic, a mountain biking trail dedicated in her name.

"Squamish has been amazing. Mikayla loved this town. And she loved the people, and she loved everything that it had to offer," said James. "And just the warmth and support from everyone in this community has been amazing. And in the wider ski community in Whistler and Vancouver and across the country. It's been just really, really lovely. And deeply, deeply appreciated — more than we can express."