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Sports Centre sets sights on 2010

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It takes about 10,000 hours, or 10 years of focused training to produce one Olympic calibre athlete. By that reckoning, the province’s aspirations to put B.C. athletes on podiums in the 2010 Olympics, whether the Games are awarded to Vancouver-Whistler or not, are already two years behind.

"We’ve got some catching up to do," says Todd Allison, the general manager of the Telus Whistler Sports Centre. "People wonder why we’re investing in medals now – why not wait until we win the bid and then create some fast track programs? We’ve done it before and it didn’t work. You have to get to the kids when they’re young."

Allison spoke Jan. 22, at the 10th fireside chat on the 2010 bid, about the goals of the centre and the programs that are already being offering around the province.

"Sports Canada tends to focus all of its funding on athletes who are already in the high performance program, and funds sports based on their success in the Olympics – the better they do the more money they get," says Allison. "That leaves a lot of athletes scrambling to make podiums without a lot of support, and doesn’t do much for the kids out there, our future Olympians. Part of the reason is that funding is always limited, and you have to go with your strengths. For a program like this, we’ve had to find new sources of funding, and do it ourselves. We’ve invested ourselves."

The Telus Whistler Sports Centre is part of the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Bid Corporation’s LegaciesNow program, a joint effort between the province, the Bid Corporation and the Bid’s corporate supporters. It was created to provide lasting sports development legacies, support, coaching and funding for potential Olympic athletes.

LegaciesNow funds the Telus Whistler Sports Centre. It was established last year to build a support network for Canada’s high-performance athletes living and training in the Sea to Sky corridor, and to introduce the youth of B.C. to the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines within the Alpine, Nordic and Sliding sport families.

That mandate includes sport promotion, athlete recruitment, and support services for the coaches and kids who show potential in alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, biathlon, ski jumping, Nordic combined, bobsled, luge, and skeleton. Paralympic sports are also included in the centre’s mandate, including the development of alpine, cross country and biathlon athletes.

The other winter sports, such as hockey, curling, and figure skating, are already well-served by club or league systems, or by the Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA).

According to Allison, the centre’s activities are already having an impact on recruitment, and programs are currently underway to expand the program even further this summer.

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