By Andrew Mitchell
One of the finest moments of the Canadian Snowboard Federation’s history was the 2005 FIS World Snowboard Championship in Whistler. Despite the frigid weather that marked the opening days of the championships, and the Pineapple Express that left organizers drenched and scrambling to keep venues open in the closing days, the team performance was exceptional.
Members of the national team won five medals in total — Maëlle Ricker and Francois Boivin in snowboardcross, Jasey-Jay Anderson in parallel giant slalom and parallel slalom, and Justin Lamoureux in men’s halfpipe. More importantly, 16 athletes finished in the top-16 of their disciplines to qualify for Sport Canada funding.
Although the team was poised to do equally as well at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, the snowboard team earned just one medal — Dominique Maltais winning bronze in women’s snowboardcross.
“In a way I think we overachieved at the 2005 world championships,” said Tom McIllfaterick, chief executive officer for the Canadian Snowboard Federation, “and what better place to do that than at home. That said, I think that the 2006 season was probably a more accurate representation of where we stack up against the rest of the world. We had a lot of good results and came close a lot of times, but I don’t think anybody would call it a great season.
“Having said that, we could have easily had three (Olympic) medals instead of one, give or take a few small things — that’s sports. What we have to do between now and 2010 is what makes the difference between coming fifth or eighth and landing on the podium.”
In a normal Olympic cycle the season after the Games is the start of another cycle. Funding is usually low, athletes focus on pro events instead of earning World Cup points, and organizations ramp down operations with a plan to ramp up again for the next Olympics. Not so this year.
With the 2010 Games on the horizon, national sports organizations
like the CSF are aggressively building their programs with the goal of being
the best. Canada’s target is 35 medals at the 2010 Games, leading all nations
at the podium.
For snowboarding, that means several things, starting with an expansion of the team.
“Heading into Torino, we were a small team, we had it whittled down over the years to the athletes that had a really good shot at making it,” said McIllfaterick. “Normally a national team is a lot larger than what we can take to the Olympic Games, but we had narrowed it down to focus our resources on those athletes. But now we’re in the start of a new cycle we’ve increased the team size quite considerably.”