It took two years after Whistlers Ross Rebagliati became the first snowboarder to win an Olympic gold medal, in February of 1998, for Sport Canada to officially recognize snowboarding athletes for funding.
Now, three years after Darren Chalmers became the first Canadian snowboarder to qualify for funding through the national Athlete Assistance Program (APP), Sport Canada has finally expanded its carding program for Canadian Snowboard Federation athletes. The result is that more athletes with the team will be able to qualify for Sport Canada funding, which is up to $1,100 a month for elite athletes.
The new carding criteria will kick in next year, using the results from this season.
"Before this, the only carding we could get was for athletes in the Olympics and World Championships to rank in the top 16, or top half of the field," said Martin Jensen, the high performance director for the Canadian Snowboard Federation.
"Now were seeing an extension to carding criteria that goes beyond the Olympics and World Championships to also include other competitions, like World Cups, national championships, and FIS rankings."
According to Jensen, the funding will help athletes to focus more on their sports and training to compete at a world class level.
"Its a huge advantage for us when an athlete qualifies for a card through Sport Canada, to get that monthly allowance that they can put towards their training and competition needs," said Jensen.
While its not a lot of money when you factor in the cost of living, and the cost of training and travelling, Jensen believes that corporate sponsors will step up to help the team.
"Its better than nothing," he said. "We need all the support we can get."
Vancouver-Whistler being awarded the 2010 Olympics has helped draw more attention to the sport, says Jensen, and the athletes have performed well enough in the past to deserve recognition.
Quebecs Jasey Jay Anderson has claimed the overall World Cup snowboarding title for Canada for the past three seasons, while Canadians make regular podium appearances in World Cup and World Championship events.
"Right now were undergoing changes to our front office, and we have a new CEO. We hope to announce a new sponsor in the next couple of weeks," said Jensen.
The carding program is not unlimited to those who qualify, and there are a set number of cards available in three categories.
Senior International Cards are available for up to nine athletes and are worth $1,100 in funding a month. These cards are awarded to athletes who finish in the top 16 and a top-half finish in the Olympic Winter Games or World Championships. If an athlete finishes 14 th and there are only 20 athletes in the competition, he or she wont qualify.
These cards are good for two years, or the time between World Championships.
In the years without a World Championships or Olympics, one-year cards can be given to athletes who finish in the top 16, or top half, of the FIS World Cup standings.
Development Cards are available to one male and one female athlete, and are worth $500 a month in funding. The cards are awarded based on a top eight, or top third finish in the FIS Junior World Championships, which are held annually.
In addition, Sport Canada will offer up to six Senior Cards. Once an athlete becomes carded, they can retain a Senior Card and $1,100 a month in funding if they continue to meet criteria. In the first year, they will have to finish in the top 42 in any final FIS list in an Olympic discipline (parallel giant slalom, halfpipe and snowboard cross). By the fifth year, they will have to finish in the top 16.
Eight Canadian CSF athletes are currently carded by Sport Canada Whistlers Maelle Ricker, Drew Neilson, Crispin Lipscomb and Alexa Loo; Brett Carpentier, Lori Glazier, Jerome Sylvestre and Francois Boivin.
The new carding criteria will kick in for the 2004-2005 season, which is a World Championship year and the qualifying season for the Olympics.