‘He would be honoured’: Manitoba cyclists hold event in memory of 12-year-old boy with Olympic dreams

A group of Manitoba cyclists are gearing up for a 172-kilometre journey across Riding Mountain National Park to honour a 12-year-old athlete who died last month while out for a run.

Ole Heie had dreams of becoming an Olympian. At 12 years old, he completed an ultra-marathon – a gruelling feat for any athlete, much less one not yet in his teens. Ole’s parents told CTV News he spent his life immersed in trail sports with a passion for running, cycling and skiing.

“He was just full of life and full of enthusiasm for everything in life, not just athletics,” his dad Rob Heie said.

Ole’s life was cut short on July 10, 2021, when he died while out for a run near his home in Camrose, Alta.

After he passed, Ole’s grandmother – who lives in Minnedosa, Man. – wanted to make a donation in his name to the development of the Squirrel Hills Trail Park, an area near Minnedosa where he frequently biked and ran while visiting her.

Organizers behind the park remembered crossing paths with Heie and wanted to do something meaningful to honour his life.

“He had a personality and a character that was far beyond his years in so much as how he appreciated people around him and how he loved to motivate and encourage people around him,” said Dave Ternier, board chair at Valley Life Recreation.

Valley Life Recreation decided to dedicate a portion of the new Squirrel Hills Trail Park to Ole’s memory. To raise the $650,000 needed to complete the park, the organization is hosting Ride Like Ole on Aug. 21, a 172-kilometre mountain bike ride across the east-west expanse of Riding Mountain National Park. The goal is to raise $100 for every kilometre biked.

Ole’s parents, sister and friends will also join a portion of the ride.

“We’ve received pledges for Ride Like Ole from as far away as New Zealand now,” Ternier said. “I don’t know specifically how that came to be, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it had anything to do with just the way Ole connected with people and the way people likewise gravitated towards him.”

Ole’s mom Leigh Heie believes the event is a testament to the impact her son had on the many people he met while doing the sports he loved.

“He was only 12. The fact that he left such an impact on this group of riders that he had met once a year ago, and the fact that they want to dedicate a part of this trail system in his honour I think just speaks volumes to the kind of person he was, and he would truly be honoured.”

For more information or to make a pledge to Ride Like Ole, visit Valley Life Recreation’s website.

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