Excitement is growing in Campbell River’s Harle family as they prepare to watch Teal Harle compete in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Teal’s freestyle skiing slopestyle race is set for Saturday (our time) for 5 p.m. and watching eagerly will be his grandfather Warren.
“It’s almost so enjoyable it brings tears to my eyes,” Warren said about the growing excitement.
A longtime educator in the community and longserving member of the board of school trustees, Warren is well-known throughout the community himself and says he can feel the excitement spreading throughout the community.
“What’s really something is the response in the community,” Warren said.
Whether it’s at the grocery store or the bank or wherever, people stop to talk about Teal.
“Wherever I go, I run into many people and it’s ‘You must be so proud!’” Warren said.
“People are getting the same feeling we’re getting but at a different level.”
Teal was always a gifted child, Warren said, whether it was computers, skiing or fishing. Fishing is a popular pastime in the Harle clan and Teal showed a gifted hand for that as well. He spends the off season working as a fishing guide.
“He’s a gifted guide, he can catch a keeper salmon when others only catch flies,” Warren said.
When asked whether he gave Teal any good advice, Warren said he got lots of advice from his dad and grandpa out fishing.
But what impresses grandpa the most is how level-headed Teal is and what a great sense of humour he has.
“He’s humble. He’s just plain humble,” Warren said. “He doesn’t have a big ego of any kind – it’s a development I am really proud of.”
Warren said the success Teal has achieved is a little bit surprising “because he’s so young and so competitive.”
The family is trying to guard against hoping too much but Warren said Teal is all taking it very calmly.
Teal is the second Olympian in the family. Shawnee Harle has been to the Olympics twice as an assistant coach with the Canadian National Basketball team.
Warren’s pride palpable. As an educator, its been a lifelong vocation for him to help children find success and Teal has earned his.
“Kids are so darned important and when you see one find success through his effort…” Warren said, the rest of the thought being pretty obvious.
Teal earned his way to the Olympics with a lot of help from his family. He began skiing at six years old and learned about freestyle skiing when he was nine. He had a lot of exposure to the mountain lifestyle, which helped him progress into an Olympic-level athlete. His father found a way to help his sons develop their skiing skills but maintain their educational needs.
“When [Teal] was in Grade 8, I went to Mount Washington and opened a (ski) school up there and the kids went and we did academics in the morning and then in the afternoon we skied, so at that time when he was younger, I was coaching him,” Shane Harle said. “We developed our lives around the lifestyle of skiing for the kids.”
Eventually Teal began coaching at his dad’s ski school (Podium of Life Snow Sports Academy).
“As [Teal] progressed we put him in ski racing and him and his brother were similar levels but he was a little older so we gave him the option to try freestyle,” Shane said. “He went to a competition and got a couple medals and that just took him off.”
Shane said Teal and his brother Kole and friends would spend hours building jumps and rails, which has helped him develop his own style of skiing.
Growing up on Mount Washington, Teal honed many of his skills through the mountain’s racing and freestyle skiing programs. But being from Vancouver Island, Shane said Teal sometimes flew under the radar.
“Because we were on the Island, he was never really given a huge look by the organizations that pull kids up and get them to the Canadian level,” Shane said.
After winning gold in moguls and slopestyle competitions at the provincial level, Teal was invited to the B.C. team and eventually to the Canadian team.
Shane said Teal has had the Olympics as a goal since he was young.
“In Grade 8 he said ‘I want to be the best skier in the world,’ and then last year he won a world cup,” Shane said.
Shane said he’s most proud of his son’s humbleness and his unwavering focus on what he sets out to do. He’s in South Korea cheering him on. Teal’s mother Corey and brother Kole are also in South Korea to provide support.
“I’m just so honoured that he’s done this and it’s such a big thing. The world cup wins are huge but then for him to be going to the Olympics, I’m going to be crying the whole time I hope they don’t show me on film,” Shane said with a laugh.
– With a file from Karly Blats