It might not be PyeongChang, but for the two Nicola Valley athletes who will compete in the B.C. Winter Games, qualifying for the event represents an important step in their athletic careers.

Hannah Howard and Bill Brewer hope to do their hometown proud at the B.C. Winter Games, which run from Feb. 22 to Feb. 25 in Kamloops.

Both students at Merritt Secondary School, Howard and Brewer will be competing in different events; Howard in badminton and Brewer in snowboarding.

Howard is a Grade 8 student who qualified for the games after attending a try-out in Kelowna.

Because MSS doesn’t have a badminton team, Howard is forced to travel around the Okanagan to attend competitions and training camps to keep her skills up. Additionally, she attends drop-in sessions at Collettville Elementary.

For Howard, the love affair with the sport started when she was a student at Bench Elementary.

“We started doing it in PE for elementary school, and I just caught on from that,” she said.

Having watched her older sister qualify for the B.C. Winter Games in Penticton in 2016, Howard knew that she definitely wanted to attend the event this year.

“She had an amazing experience,” said Howard.

The young athlete is hoping to finish in the top five — but more importantly, she wants to use the games to learn from her fellow competitors and take another step towards her goal of competing in the Olympic Games.

“When you go to a higher level, you get to see how they play and then you can learn off their strategies as well,” she said. “I’m hoping I could possibly make it to the Olympics ­— that is a very high goal.”

Brewer, a Grade 10 student, will be taking to the slopes at Sun Peaks to compete in the bordercross event.

As a member of the First Nations Snowboard Team, he spends every Saturday training at Sun Peaks — which means he’ll be on home territory when his races begin.

“I’m not too sure what to expect, but I’m just really looking forward to racing,” said Brewer. “I’m just hoping I place well.”

The B.C. Winter Games are held every two years, with 19 events included in this year’s event. Athletes compete as part of a regional team, and will march together in the opening ceremonies on Feb. 22