Building a better community with Hometown Heroes

Annual event will honour hall of fame mountain biker Cindy Devine on Sept. 27

For Mary Robson, the annual Hometown Hero at the Meadowridge Rotary annual sports banquet is more than just honouring the chosen athlete.

It’s the recognition of the tremendous work and sacrifice the community puts forward to make Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows such great sports towns.

“It comes down to the volunteers,” said Robson, one of the founding members of the Hometown Heroes program that was launched in 1998.

“All those hours put in by moms and dads driving to games and the coaches that give up their weekends to support the community is what makes all this possible.”

This year’s Hometown Hero is no different.

Cindy Devine will be the 42nd athlete inducted into the ring of honour, joining the likes of Larry Walker Jr., Cam Neely, Greg Moore and Karina Leblanc, just to name a few.

Devine, a Maple Ridge product, retired from racing in 1994 as five-time undefeated Canadian national downhill champion. In 2003, she was inducted into the World Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.

It’s that kind resume that Robson said makes the annual event so special.

“I believe this honour truly inspires our local athletes to strive to be better. They see the athletes who have been honoured and they say to themselves ‘why not me?’”

Devine – born in Maracaibo, Venezuela to an Icelandic mother and a Canadian father – went to elementary school in North Vancouver, riding her Mustang bike wherever she needed to go.

She then moved with her family to Maple Ridge, heading to Garibaldi for Grade 8. In her senior year, 1977, Cindy help her team win a Fraser Valley title and competed for the B.C. high school basketball championship against Lake Cowichan.

But it wasn’t until she started cycle touring in university with other faculty of rehab medicine classmates that she found her true calling.

After a summer of travelling, she returned to Canada in 1987, to say goodbye to family and friends before moving to New Zealand. While back in B.C., she visited Whistler, and met a handsome young man who interested her enough to stay a while longer.

She rode almost every day that summer, and went to races on weekends, to watch her friends.

Then they signed her up for some beginner races, which she won. Then she won more. She got bumped up to the sport division.

She won a B.C. championship in 1988, at age 28 The next thing she knew she had a sponsor, which covered her travel expenses to start going to races in the U.S.

In her second in competitive race, she earned bronze in both the downhill and dual slalom events at Mammoth Lakes, Calf.

The following year, she won gold in downhill and bronze in slalom at the unofficial world mountain bike championships. The next year, the unofficial became official, and Devine won the downhill event, becoming the first female world champion in mountain biking.

By 1992, she had captured one gold and two bronze in downhill at the worlds, as well as three Kamikaze Downhill titles, three Canadian downhill national titles and won the “Desert to Sea” 150 mile race, from Palm Springs to San Diego.

Now Robson said Devine will be one more athlete the community’s youth can look up to and emulate.

All nominees have to have come from Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows and attended school in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows. They also have to have participated in minor youth sports either on school teams or minor league sports teams then go on to international success in order to be candidates for Home Town Heroes.

Robson said she remains as passionate about the program today as she did when it first started because just like when the program first started, there’s no shortage of truly gifted athletes still making a mark on the world stage.

“This year we had 10 athletes nominated and they were all worthy,” she said.

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