A few years ago in a boardroom somewhere it was decided that Canada's halfpipe athletes had little to no chance to win medals in 2014. As a result, Own the Podium cut funding to the sport to a bare bones $25,000 last year — not nearly enough to field a World Cup team or hire a coach.
That left Canada's halfpipe athletes relying on sponsors and paying their own way last season, and concentrating more on higher visibility pro events rather than World Cup competitions.
There are some signs that the program is in the process of being revived. Former national athlete Dan Raymond was named as the national team's head coach for the coming season. And, despite the lack of funding, several athletes have every intention of representing Canada at the Games in Sochi.
Among them is Nova Scotia-Whistler transplant Alexandra Duckworth, who has two national-champion wins (one in slopestyle) and a win at the Canada Games. Recently she has taken the unusual step of putting a video on Pursuit (www.pursu.it/campaign/alex-duckworth/) with the goal of raising $8,652 for the coming season — a crucial one with Duckworth and hundreds of other athletes competing to earn quota spots for their countries and themselves at the 2014 Games.
It's an unusual step for the athlete, and one that could pave the way for other athletes working around the usual sponsorship dance and taking their appeal directly to the public.
Duckworth, who Pique reached while training in New Zealand, said it's been a hard road recently for Canada's snowboard halfpipe athletes.
"I'm entering my fifth season as a national team rider," she said.
"The team is now five people; the smallest it's ever been as far as I know. The support the program receives varies from year to year, depending on who Own the Podium, the governing body of sport funding in Canada, deems to have podium potential — kind of backwards considering it's often the result of retired athletes who determine the destiny of funding for their discipline for the up and coming generation, regardless of who the up-and-comers are, or what potential they have demonstrated.
"In a sense, this system caps the potential of really talented riders, who compete in a field that hasn't historically received Olympic medals. And what's wrong with sixth place at the Olympics? Mercedes Nicoll is one of the best riders in the world. Does it make sense that a sixth place finish warrants zero program funding?"
While the program has a coach this year, Duckworth noted that the team has no program funding. "We don't have the resources to function as a team and really take advantage of Dan. Costs related to our travel, accommodation, registration, facilities, etc. are all dependent on our own means."