By Andrew Mitchell
With over a decade of history behind it, a full slate of pro events around the world, and a now well-entrenched World Cup circuit, skicross is no longer a new sport. With the very successful addition of snowboardcross to the Olympics in 2006, many athletes expected that it would only be a matter of time before skicross was also added to the Winter Games schedule.
This week the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games at last confirmed that skicross would be making its Olympic debut at Cypress Mountain.
Peter Judge, the president and CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association (CFSA), says the association had advance notice of VANOC’s decision, and has already put a lot of time, energy and planning into what comes next — namely creating a complete national program with athletes and coaches in time to make an impact in 2010.
“We’ve looked at it from every angle, and created a partnership with Alpine Canada and the Canadian Snow Sports Association in recognition that, in the short term, we really need to get this thing up and going,” he said. “We need to draw the athletes there, and use resources that we may not have historically in our system already.”
One of the first undertakings of the partners was to identify a group of athletes to bring to the world championships at Madonna de Campiglio, Italy last week. Own the Podium 2010, a program developed to ensure Canada finishes among the top nations during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, contributed some funding, Alpine Canada contributed a ski technician, and the CFSA provided things like physiotherapists and team trainers.
Currently skicross falls under the freestyle banner at the International Ski Federation, and Judge confirmed that efforts are underway to recruit a national team, start a development team, hire coaches, and create a grass roots development program to identify and train athletes.
While many believe that skicross should fall under the alpine banner, given the fact that the sport has more in common with ski racing than freestyle, and that most coaches and athletes have a ski racing background, Judge says freestyle can bring one important element to the sport — recent experience.
“With freestyle being a new sport and not an Olympic sport prior to 1988, we know we’ll be jumping through a lot of hoops,” said Judge. “It also takes a long time for the funding machine to warm up, but I think we’re starting with great support from Own the Podium, who gave us the seed money to get this going, and I’m confident we’ll see some corporate sponsorship come through from a company that wants to help a new sport and have an impact at the Games. Canada has always done well in new sports.”