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Spread too thin

Administrative error that kept Whistler rider out of World Cup finals highlights wider problem with sports funding



An administrative error which cost three of Canada’s best female downhillers a chance to compete at the mountain bike World Cup finals in Livigno, Italy last month highlights a problem in Canadian sport that received enormous coverage during the Olympics.

Sports funding, or the lack of it, is a topic that’s received consistent coverage since Canada’s disappointing performance in Athens. The issue reared its head again at the mountain bike World Cup finals when Whistler’s Claire Buchar and Vancouver’s Danika Schroeter and Katrina Strand were not able to compete because their entry forms were late and event organizers failed to process their Canadian Cycling Association registration forms in time.

B.C. Cycling Association President Tom Fawsitt has since apologized for the administrative gaff, reimbursed the women some of their costs and OK’d the creation of a new registration system for international events which would simplify the process.

Despite the apology, the situation shows that the organizations governing biking in Canada, like many other sport organizations, are under-funded and lack administrative support.

"They’ve cut down staff so they can put more money into programs," said Tracy Harkness, publisher of Canadian Cyclist magazine. "Some people might blame the CCA but it’s (the lack of) money."

There are a number of reasons why the three B.C. women missed the World Cup finals but the bigger picture is that provincial and national cycling bodies missed the details because the sport is growing and there isn’t the funding for them to employ more people to manage extra programs and responsibilities.

BCA Technical Director Gary Jackson assumed responsibility for the error that cost the women a ride in the World Cup finals, but this is not surprising given Jackson’s responsibilities.

Jackson has to oversee all the sanctioned mountain bike races in B.C. (this year there were over 60) including the prestigious SISU B.C. Cup Series, and since May he has accumulated 20 days of overtime.

Moreover, this incident started when Jackson was taking leave to get married.

"Make no mistake the initial problem was an error at my desk… but I’m human and between doing my primary job, which is running a provincial series, and my personal life, which was getting married, it (the registration forms) unfortunately didn’t get back," said Jackson.

"But we realized the error and did correct it five days before the event… but (the event organizers) didn’t get it through."

The reason why people such as Jackson and Fawsitt are busy is because mountain biking, at a recreational level in particular, has grown exponentially in the past five years. There are also more disciplines, such as BMX, to manage.