Newcomer youth participate in 5K run, with help from an Olympian

Newcomer youth in Surrey were thrilled to get a visit from Olympic long-distance runner Natasha Wodak August 30 at the final event of DIVERSEyouth’s Run 5K program, in partnership with SportMedBC.

Immigrant and refugee youth who have been training with DIVERSEyouth’s Run 5K program since June 21, 2021, came together yesterday for the final run at Green Timbers Park in Surrey. They were surprised with a visit and warm-up lesson from Natasha, who placed 13th in the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics, becoming the second-fastest female marathoner in Canadian history.

Surrey-born Olympic runner Natasha Wodak helps DIVERSEyouth participants warm up for their 5k run, capping off DIVERSEcity’s and SportMedBC’s joint Run 5K program.

She told the youth at yesterday’s event that while growing up in Surrey: “I ran track and cross country and played soccer and that’s what I was doing instead of what my friends were doing. I was lucky enough that sport got me a full scholarship at SFU. I was able to play sports there and get a full education after high school,” she said.

“It’s so important to be involved in sport. The most important thing that I took away from running was I had so much fun and got to meet so many people and make new friendships that have lasted a lifetime. It’s awesome that you are all out here doing this.”


Olympian Natasha Wodak (in red) beside DIVERSEcity’s Garrison Duke and Raphael Ochil, DIVERSEyouth coordinator, with SportMedBC coordinator Kristina Niketas (to her left), along with two SportMedBC trainers.

Garrison Duke, a director at DIVERSEcity, also spoke at the event and thanked Natasha and the SportMedBC team for their participation. “We’re so proud of the work done by DIVERSEyouth and SportMedBC. What a great program! It gets you active and helps you even with your homework. Sports has meant a lot to me, growing up in a rough neighbourhood in Toronto. But sports kept us out of trouble. It kept our imagination going and you realized that anything is possible,” said Garrison (pictured in group photo above).

“So, we’re happy to build your confidence and learn from you and you learn from each other, and have that peer support. And you get to be with an Olympian and all these great trainers [from SportMedBC].”


Three DIVERSEyouth Run 5K participants: (L to R) Kayla, Bu Reh and Ali.

One of the young runners, Bu Reh, told us: I like about this program is I meet a lot of new people, get to go out and get my fitness done and I improve a lot.”

DIVERSEyouth is DIVERSEcity’s signature program for helping immigrant and refugee youth 13 to 18 years old in their settlement journey in Canada. From workshops to arts programs to exercise programs, the program’s goal is to empower these youth with leadership skills, confidence, goals and new friendships. Learn more about the DIVERSEyouth program here.