Ian Cockerline’s three-week stay in Whistler couldn’t have ended on a better note.
Not only did the 24-year-old national luge athlete post the fastest time Tuesday on his last run at the Whistler Sliding Centre, his computer, which was stolen from the team’s Alpine Meadows digs last week, was clandestinely returned, fully intact and functioning later that day.
“Everything came together there — I had a fantastic final run and I came home and found that Geoff (the owner of the Alpine Lodge) had somehow tracked down my laptop,” said a very thankful Cockerline, on the long drive with team members back to Calgary Wednesday.
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders.”
Lodge owner Geoff Carr explained that a phone call came in around 8 p.m. Tuesday with a young man saying he had information about one of the two stolen computers, which disappeared overnight, along with a camera, from the team’s lodgings Sunday March 9.
Carr met the man outside 7-Eleven and soon had Cockerline’s computer in hand. The explanation was that the young man had bought the computer in the village for $100 only to discover it was the missing luge athlete’s laptop.
“He didn’t want the bad karma,” said Carr, who took the computer, no questions asked.
It was a relief, he said, to at least see one computer safely returned.
It means that Cockerline now has back in his hands the valuable notes and video to help with his training and his dream of pursuing gold at the 2010 Games. Both computers contain the personal notes of the nuances of the tracks the athletes have raced down around the world.
“I want to see these guys on the podium,” said Carr, who is renting the Alpine Lodge to the national luge team over the course of the next two years as they come to Whistler to train.
“They’re all great guys. I want to support them as much as I can.”
Fellow luge athlete Sam Edney is still missing his laptop.
The teammates were amazed when a Vancouver-based company stepped up to the plate late last week with a $2,500 cheque for each of them to make up for their stolen equipment.
It was then that they realized just how much of a difference a major sponsor can make to amateur sport in Canada.
The company, Haywood Securities, a 100 per cent employee-owned investment dealer, is a major sponsor of Canada’s cross-country ski athletes.
In addition to supporting the two luge athletes, Haywood also extended its commitment to Canada’s cross-country ski athletes until 2010.
“Haywood has been very proud of its involvement in fuelling the journey towards the international podium for many of Canada’s winter sport athletes,” said David Lyall, Haywood’s vice president, institutional sales and trading.
“A group of employees felt it was important to show the true Vancouver spirit and support for these great Canadian athletes in their quest to achieve excellence.”
For athletes like Edney and Cockerline, who come from a sport that operates on a miniscule budget without a title sponsor, the donation was a welcome shock and a relief.
“I don’t have that much experience with big title sponsors like that from luge but to see how it actually worked out so well with Haywood was really quite an eye-opener,” said Cockerline. “It makes me realize now that it’s actually a lot more important than I thought because, more than the money… it’s also the fact that Haywood really gets involved and they’re helping promote the sport itself in Canada.”
The robbery was just one glitch in an otherwise exciting week trying to log as many runs on the Whistler track as possible to give the team home field advantage for the fast-approaching 2010 Games.
“It (the donation) really did show how Vancouver and Whistler has been to us so far,” said Edney.
“Whistler is a great community and we are happy to be here and we’re going to be happy to be here for the next two years and beyond the Olympics,” he said.
The 23-year-old Calgary native hopes the Whistler track, and the associated club, will be able to promote sliding sports and create that bond with Canadians and corporate Canada and possibly entice more funding for luge.
He said: “I think bridging that gap of making luge and the sliding sports a recreation sport is going to attract that much more interest in the sport and hopefully that will bring along sponsorships.”
Cockerline said he would be getting in touch with Haywood about the $2,500 donation now that his computer has been returned.
In the meantime he is enjoying his status as record-holder at the track, posting a staggering 147.8 kilometres an hour, and that was on a snowy day.
He said: “I wanted to make sure that I left the Whistler track on a really, really positive note.”