Sports have always been a "numbers game" — fastest time, most points scored, highest score awarded by judges. It's no different for the agencies and organizations that support sports in Canada, although they look at slightly different numbers — medals won at different levels, coach-to-athlete ratios, the number of athletes in the system at different levels... the numbers behind the numbers.
The Canadian Sport Centre Pacific (CSCP) shared some of their numbers last week at a special media briefing, marking two years since the 2010 Games and 18 months since the Games' sports legacies were opened. Dollar for dollar, the numbers show that the Canadian approach to high performance sports in working.
"There's only so much money (for programming), which is not much compared to our other international competitors, but what money we do have we make sure it's invested with an aggressive approach," said Wendy Pattenden, the CEO of CSCP.
Nationally, Canada has seen its share of medals at the Winter Games increase significantly. In 2002 the team earned 17 medals and was fourth on the list of gold-medal winners. In 2006 the total jumped to 24 medals and Canada climbed to third on the list. In 2010 Canada moved up to 26 medals in total and the team was first among nations with 14 gold medals — the most gold medals won by any country in Winter Games history. In the Paralympic Winter Games we jumped from sixth in 2002 to third in 2010.
The overall trend from 2006 to 2010 including World Cup medals and world championships was upward, and in 2009 Canadian athletes won 29 World Championship medals — the most of any nation, and one more than either the U.S. or Germany.
Athletes training in B.C. and Whistler have also played a greater role in Canada's success.
In Salt Lake in 2002, B.C. athletes accounted for 25 per cent of Olympic medals, dropping to 12.5 per cent in 2006 and rising again to 23 per cent in 2010. The Paralympics have shown a steady increase; 46 per cent in 2002 and 2006, jumping to 73.7 per cent in 2010.
"B.C. has roughly 13 per cent of the population of Canada, and we're not satisfied with less than doubling that 25 or 26 per cent of medals," said Pattenden. "And, as you can see, when it comes to Paralympics we're well ahead of that."
Currently, CSCP administers to 24.11 per cent of the Sport Canada carded athletes in Canada. That's 427 of 1,771 athletes competing at the international level.
Only the centre in Calgary has more with 26.48 per cent, followed by Montreal with 22.76 per cent.
The athletes under the CSCP's banner train at different centres around the province, but the Whistler centre already accounts for more than a third of those athletes with 170 athletes based out of the CSCP gym at Cheakamus Crossing. Of those athletes 10 are at the podium level, 45 at the elite level, 43 at the Canadian development level and 70 at the provincial development level.