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Biathlon Canada honours Whitman

Whistler Biathlon president receives Ruedi Setz Memorial Award

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Earning the Ruedi Setz Memorial Award was such a surprise to Whistler Biathlon president Clayton Whitman that he wasn't in the crowd to receive it.

The award was given out at the Canadian Championships on March 24, and while Whitman often attends nationals, he opted not to make the cross-country journey to Charlo, N.B. this year.

"One of our friends there, Jacqueline Akerman, a coach and athlete-development coordinator for Alpine Canada, actually Skyped me in live when they were doing the presentation," he said. "I didn't know I was getting this award. It was a pretty big surprise."

Outgoing Biathlon Canada general manager Andy Holmwood credited Whitman for helping to raise biathlon's profile in the Sea to Sky corridor, and more widely, since first getting involved in the sport, which comprises of cross-country skiing and shooting, in 2008.

Holmwood said Whitman received the award, which goes to an individual who made a significant contribution to the sport in the past year, in large part due to his organization of two NorAm Cup events at Whistler Olympic Park in a 13-month span.

"Those are fairly significant undertakings," Holmwood said. "Clayton, not quite singlehandedly, is putting a lot of effort into getting Whistler Olympic Park back on the Canadian biathlon calendar, as well as the North American calendar.

"He's really driving those efforts."

Holmwood also praised the park for its reliable snow and its range, noting it deserves to be a regular stop on the circuit.

Whitman said biathlon wasn't much of an option for enthusiasts when he started in 2008, but he kept at it and helped it grow to the point where Whistler has a Nordic Development Centre that has a major emphasis on biathlon.

"Since the 2010 Olympics, we started out on our own and have been dealing with some challenging times to get our club and our event-hosting society running from scratch," Whitman said. "We've made some progress, put on some good events, and made Whistler into one of the major biathlon centres in the country.

"It's the effort of everyone involved: volunteers, coaches and athletes."

Whitman explained that after the Olympics, the biggest challenge was to build a culture of biathlon in a place that was suited for it and now boasted the legacy venue as well.

"We didn't really have a culture of Nordic skiing too much in the Sea to Sky corridor," Whitman said. "(We were also) dealing with the new facility, Whistler Olympic Park, finding its way on what its role and purpose in life is. Are we going to try to be a recreational facility or a sport facility?

"We've managed those challenges and worked with our partners to get to where we are today.

"We basically started from nothing and then started elevating to make Whistler one of the premier places to do and host biathlon in Canada and, hopefully, internationally as well."

Whitman also played a key role in landing next year's nationals, which will be the third time Whistler has hosted. The event will also double as the North American championships, the second time the resort has welcomed that opportunity.

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