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Own the Podium coming through for new sports

Addition of new sports to 2014 Olympic Winter Games accommodated in current budget



As Ken Read, the director of winter sport for Own the Podium (OTP), puts it, "it's a nice problem to have to manage."

In the past year, OTP has been called on to provide funding to several new sports that will be making their debut in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia - including several sports in which Canada is a solid medal contender. They have been able to do this, so far, without requesting any new funding from the federal government or taking any funding from other sports that may have been struggling recently.

"(Funding priorities) is a good question because the size of the Olympic program has increased by nearly 15 per cent with the two IOC (International Olympic Committee) decisions," he said.

Back in April, the IOC approved the addition of ski halfpipe to the 2014 program, as well as women's ski jumping, a team figure skating event, a luge team event and a biathlon team event. In July, the IOC approved the addition of slopestyle for both snowboarding and skiing, as well as a parallel slalom snowboarding event.

The second slate of announcements came as a bit of a surprise to everyone, including national sports organizations that expected a decision on slopestyle after the 2014 Games. However, both the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association and Canada Snowboard had already identified athletes and coaches from the pro circuit, and will be hitting the ground running this year.

Read said OTP was able to find funding for the first round of new sports within their contingency budget, and then funding for the second round of new sports working in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee.

"The first step in getting financial support out (to the National Sport Organizations or NSOs) is to make sure they have a high performance director, that they have coaches in place, that they have an integrated support team behind them, and then put resources into the other element which is the training and competition side," he said.

"At this point some development needs to happen in some sports because there's both a pro tour and World Cup tour, and in some cases the World Cup tour is only partially developed, or in some cases it's only on paper while the pro tour is very well developed.

"Our bottom line is making sure athletes that are targetted and medal contenders, like snowboarder Sebastien Toutant, are getting supported."

In addition to new sports, existing sports are performing at a high level and will continue to be supported. For example, while Canada didn't deliver any medals in alpine, luge or cross-country in the 2010 Games, all three sports put athletes on the podium in the world championship - Erik Guay in downhill, Amy Gough in luge and Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey in cross-country.

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