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First Person: Marion Lay

Lessons learned from Athens

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To be ready for 2010, LegaciesNow president says funding, athlete support programs have to start now

As an Olympic medallist and the president of 2010 LegaciesNow, Vancouver’s Marion Lay knows how important it is to give athletes a head start, while supporting the sports organizations that foster the development of world class athletes.

With Canada bringing home one of its lowest medal tallies in recent decades from the Athens Games, Lay hopes that politicians, corporate leaders, and others in positions of power are waking up to the same reality – Olympic hopefuls need help today to have a chance of winning tomorrow.

Pique: The reaction to Canada’s performance at the Athens Olympics has been pretty strong in the media, people criticizing everything from funding to the selection criteria, and they want to do something. From a LegaciesNow standpoint, is there a short-term fix? Can we be ready by 2006 or 2008, and can we be ready for 2010?

Marion Lay: I think we absolutely can be ready by 2010. I think we have strong winter sport development because of our legacies from Calgary. In our performance on the winter side we’ve been in the top five nations, and since 1988 we’ve always won gold medals, so I think that our development is there.

We have the Canadian Olympic Committee, who’ve done in partnership a review of winter sports, called Own The Podium, and all the national sports (organizations) have gone through that program to look at what they can do between now and 2010, and what they believe they can achieve. That report is in and we’re waiting for feedback both from the COC and from the federal government, so I think we have time.

That said, we have to do something soon, so I think in LegaciesNow, the "now" part is really apropos. I think having Athens, where our expectations were above what we could deliver – and I don’t think it has anything to do with athletes, I think they were totally committed and they did the best they could do – but we do not have the coaching support. Imagine having a gold medal potential athlete and we couldn’t even have their coach there to be with them.

We have to invest, strategically invest, in playground right through podium. Everybody is saying do we invest in participation or do we invest in excellence, when we need the whole thing. That’s why it’s called a system, it’s not called a one-off. We have a sports system, we have some investments, but we need to increase some of those.

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