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Freestyle looks to the future

Retirements take toll, but young athletes stepping up; halfpipe on the horizon

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"The sport culture in Quebec is very strong, it's a significant part of the fabric of their culture and they really celebrate their sport heroes," he said. "The result is that there is a much stronger aspiration for younger kids to want to grow and develop and be involved in sports, although (after the Games) we're starting to see the rest of Canada catching up."

Government also helps with funding sports organizations and events, says Judge.

"They've been very clever constructing a system that encourages athlete growth, that encourages coaches to stay involved, with rewards for coaches that produce high level athletes, and tax breaks and funding for provincial level athletes that is just not matched in any other province," said Judge.

The effort to build grass roots for the sport got a boost recently with the announcement of the Canada Post Mogul Cup series for the 2010-2011 season - six moguls and three dual moguls competitions held in Quebec, Ontario and B.C. over the course of the season. The events will be open to all athletes, from the club level and up.

As well, the CFSA is making room in its organization for the sport of ski halfpipe, which the International Olympic Committee is currently considering for inclusion in the 2014 Winter Games. The IOC was expected to reach a decision this week, but decided to defer the issue until after the World Championships in 2011.

Judge says Canada will start off strong in that sport, and should be a contender in 2014.

"We do have a plan in place. We've been dialoguing with Own the Podium and keeping them abreast of the situation and what our plans are," said Judge.

While the delay makes things more difficult planning for the future, he doesn't expect it to have any impact on preparing halfpipe skiers for 2014.

"Fortunately, we already have a group of extremely committed athletes and partners on the halfpipe side, who have walked the long road without any funding to date and have been able to have an incredibly significant amount of success," he said. "When we get the nod we'll hit the ground with a team... and I think we'll have great success off the bat and through 2014, and beyond."

Judge is himself a part-time Whistler resident, and says the resort is the unofficial summer training headquarters for the team with a late season, glacier camps, water ramps and other training facilities. The team will host another camp in Whistler before the start of the World Cup season, if conditions permit, as well as a possible aerials camp using the ski jumps at Whistler Olympic Park.

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