For the past 12 years the Whistler Mountain Ski Club has played host to the Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup, one of only two international juvenile ski race events in the world. Hundreds of athletes aged 11 to 14 from almost 20 countries regularly take part, giving many athletes from across Canada their first look at their future competition on the FIS, NorAm and even World Cup circuits. Most of Canadas top alpine racers, including Britt and Michael Janyk, Genevieve Simard, Allison Forsyth, Emily Brydon, Erik Guay, Julien Cousineau, Jean-Phillipe Roy and Christina Risler, are veterans of the Whistler Cup.
Although its unlikely that many, if any, of the athletes taking part in the 2005 Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup will be ready to compete here in the 2010 Winter Games, 2010 LegaciesNow is supporting the event to the tune of $10,000, the maximum allowed through the provinces HostingBC program.
"Of course were hoping this is the beginning of an ongoing program," said Marion Lay, the president and CEO of 2010 LegaciesNow. "Most money from the provincial government does tend to be annual because thats how they budget, but we hope to see this funding run every year through 2010, and to see more sponsors and teams sign on as well as we get closer to the Olympics.
"When we were approached by the Whistler Mountain Ski Club for this funding, we knew that this was exactly the kind of event we at 2010 LegaciesNow should be supporting. "
In addition to providing juvenile racers with an opportunity to face international competition, the Whistler Cup also meets another criteria for the $225,000 HostingBC program, the ability to generate tourism.
"(The Whistler Cup) is looked at as an athlete development opportunity but also as an economic engine," said Lay.
With Air Canada no longer sponsoring the event and subsidizing air travel for international competitors, the international field has gotten slightly smaller in recent years. Lay believes that the Olympics will increase the prestige and international interest in the event, especially with countries focussing more and more on young athletes.
"The world is starting to look at ways to build more depth in their sports programs, and there arent many opportunities to showcase junior talent. Our goal is to build this event towards 2010 and beyond," said Lay.
In total, the first round of HostingBC funding will support 17 events in 12 communities, including five summer sports. Other events will be located in Burnaby, Courtenay, Fernie, Kamloops, Kelowna, Kimberley, Penticton, Prince George, Salmon Arm, Surrey and Vancouver. Winter sports to benefit include alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, hockey, snowboarding and speed skating. The summer sports are cycling, gymnastics, table tennis, tennis and wheelchair basketball.
The maximum size of each grant was $10,000, and applications were awarded by a panel that included members of Tourism B.C., Sport B.C., B.C. Games Society, VANOC, the Province of B.C., the City of Vancouver and 2010 LegaciesNow.
The second round of funding will wrap up on Feb. 28.