Lauryn Cheung is one of 25 athletes from Langley and Aldergrove who were chosen to represent Team B.C. at the Western Canada Summer Games in Wood Buffalo, Alta. The 16-year-old Cheung actually qualified in two sports — kayaking and the pole vault — but the competition schedule has both her events running concurrently, forcing her to drop track and field. Older sister Meghan Cheung (below) has also qualified in kayaking for Team B.C.

Tough choice for dual-sport star

Langley's Lauryn Cheung forced to choose between pole vault, kayaking after qualifying in both events for Western Canada Summer Games

Soaring through the air or slicing through the water, Lauryn Cheung loves both her sports equally.

Sadly, with the schedule makers not co-operating, she will not get the chance to stand atop the podium in both of her chosen sports.

Cheung, a 16-year-old from Langley, had qualified to represent Team B.C. at the Western Canada Summer Games in both canoe/kayak and in track and field, where she specializes in the pole vault.

The Games, featuring more than 2,500 athletes from the four western provinces and three territories, run Aug. 7 to 16 in Wood Buffalo, Alta.

Twenty-five of the athletes are from Langley.

But once the competition schedule was released, Cheung realized that both of her events were being contested over the first five days of the competition.

Forced to chose between the two, she is going with kayaking.

“I would have really liked to compete in both, but it just wasn’t possible,” she said.

That doesn’t mean one sport has the edge when it comes down to which is her favourite. Her rationale was that kayaking offers more opportunities to find the podium, as well as the fact there is more of a team aspect to the sport.

“In pole vaulting, it is just me,” she explained.

“But with kayaking, you are in the boat with other people; there are people counting  on you and it is team effort.”

At the Western Canada Summer Games, Cheung is scheduled to compete in the K-1, K-2 and K-4 events at several different distances.

She will do alongside her older sister, 18-year-old Meghan. And that is fitting since it was Megan who introduced her to the sport.

The sisters — as well as the youngest of the Cheung brood, 14-year-old Kirsten — are all members of the Fort Langley Canoe Club.

Two years ago, Megan was preparing to head to the national championships. Wanting to enter a few more events, the kayakers were looking for a fourth for their boat, so the invite was extended to Lauryn, despite the fact she had not done the sport competitively, and that she was two years younger than her peers.

Up until that point, Cheung had kayaked recreationally and had just recently stepped away from competitive gymnastics to focus more on pole vault and track and field.

“I wasn’t the fastest right of the bat,” she admitted. “But I knew how to compete and I knew how to train (so) I picked up the technique pretty quick.”

And while some older siblings may not want their younger sister hanging around and forcing their way in, that was not the cause with the Cheung sisters.

“At the beginning, it was like I had to show her the ropes,” Meghan said.

“But after we started practising, it was ‘oh snap, she’s fast.’”

Long term, Cheung is unsure which sport she will settle on.

“I would like to keep doing them both as long as I can,” she admitted.

“I am still pretty young and it is not like I need to spend all my time doing one sport. I think it is good to do more than one.”

Cheung discovered pole vault one summer while training with the Langley Mustangs Track and Field Club. With her gymnastics background, pole vaulting is a natural fit.

“I am used to flipping around and stuff like that,” she said.

“I just find it a lot of fun (and) it is really cool when you get to go upside down.”

And while some may not like being so high up in the air with a long drop down to the mat waiting below. But Cheung describes the feeling of being high up in the air as both exciting and calming, at the same time.

Competing on a large stage is nothing new for Cheung.

At the Canadian Legion track and field championships last summer, Cheung won bronze in the pole vault. And in addition to the Western Canada Summer Games, she recently qualified for the national kayak championships in Ottawa.

Long term, Cheung — who enters Grade 11 at R.E. Mountain Secondary in September, where she is part of the school’s International Baccalaureate program — has big dreams: the Olympics.

“That is the dream, but that is far, far away,” she said.

“I don’t know which (sport) yet. I like them both and that is really far away.”

Meghan, who is entering her second year at UBC in September, shares her sister’s ambition of one day competing for her country.

“That’s the dream,” she said. “To travel and compete, that would be awesome.”

Submitted Photo

Meghan Cheung will represent Team BC at the upcoming Western Canada Summer Games.

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