The confirmation that ski halfpipe would be in the 2014 Games may have sent a lot of countries scrambling, but not so for Canada. Canada has had a grass roots national team for four years now, with athletes contributing their own money to fund a full-time coach and travel around the world competing.
Now, with full World Cup and Olympic status, Canada Superpipe has been rolled into the successful Canadian Freestyle Ski Association with the same group of athletes as before joining the new national team.
Trennon Paynter, who has been coaching the team since the beginning, will remain the team's head coach. Under his guidance, Canadian halfpipe athletes have dominated in every type of competition, from top pro events like the Dew Tour and X Games to the World Cup circuit. In the 2011 World Championships, two athletes - Rosalind Groenewoud and Mike Riddle - walked away with titles, while Keltie Hansen and Sarah Burke were third and fourth on the women's side.
Status means that the team is now eligible for federal funding through Own The Podium and other programs, as well as athlete funding from Sport Canada, and a share of funding and support from the successful Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.
The halfpipe team now includes nine athletes. The "A" Group is comprised of Rosalind Groenewoud (world champion), Sarah Burke (X Games and World Cup champion), Keltie Hansen (third at worlds), Justin Dorey (first at World Skiing Invitation, second overall on pro tour) and Mike Riddle (world champion). "B" Group is Megan Gunning (silver in 2009 world championship), Dania Assaly (first at Dew Tour in Breckenridge), Matt Margetts (second in European and North Face Open) and Noah Bowman (junior world champion). Both Burke and Riddle call Squamish home.
"I think this is already a proven team in terms of what these athletes have done in major events," said David Mirota, the high performance director for Canadian Freestyle. "Now, with a combination of Trennon's coaching and support from (Own The Podium) we can really maximize and improve their performances by giving them tools that we have used successfully in our moguls and aerials programs, like sport science and medical support."
The team will be officially located in Whistler through the summer with the first training camp at the end of May.
Pique caught up with coach Trennon Paynter to talk about what's new with ski halfpipe.
Pique: The announcement mentioned the funding from Own The Podium. What does that funding mean for the team now you're in the Olympics and with the CFSA?
Trennon Paynter: It's huge. It takes the pressure of funding and maintaining a team program away from the athletes, now one is being provided for them. I've been hired now by Freestyle Canada to coach the national team, and we're going to get an assistant coach. The team will increase (in size) slightly, which is great because a couple of other Canadian athletes are getting podiums at international events, and the way the team was we couldn't sustain more athletes than what we had - it was a one-man show. Now we're going to be taking care of all the top Canadian halfpipe skiers.