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WSC launches bid to host bobsleigh, skeleton worlds

Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton leading bid to bring event to Whistler in 2019



Justin Kripps will always be a part of Whistler Sliding Centre's lore.

The 28-year-old bobsleigh pilot was a brakeman for legend Pierre Lueders when the duo took the first rough runs on the track in Dec. 2007.

Just over two years later, Kripps scored a fifth-place finish on the track at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

"The highlight of my career was sliding at the 2010 Games," Kripps said. "My friends and family were all at the finish line. I'd get down and I took off my helmet and my friends were right there and my family was 10 feet away."

Hoping to earn a major medal on home soil, Kripps is lending his name in support of bringing the 2019 International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (FIBT) World Championships to the track. Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (BCS) announced on Monday, March 23 that it has submitted a bid to host the event at this year's World Championships in Winterberg, Germany. The organizing committee will present to the FIBT at its congress later this spring. Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton's media and public relations director Chris Dornan said he expects the FIBT to announce their decision on June 2.

With Kripps making the official announcement and North Vancouver skeleton racer Jane Channell also voicing her support for holding the event here, the clamour from Canadians to bring it home was clear. Dornan explained it was more than just symbolic the athletes were so involved in the launch as opposed to trotting out suits like new CEO Jon Jackson or president Sarah Storey.

"From our perspective, the unique thing about this and the importance is that it's an athlete-driven bid," he said. "It's no coincidence we have two athletes here and we don't have our executive here. It's because the athletes want to come back here."

Dornan explained any serious pitch would have athletes brought into it, but they wouldn't necessarily be at its heart the way theirs are. He cited turnout at the FIBT World Cup stops, which have been absent the past two seasons in Whistler as other North American tracks take their respective turns, as a driver in the bid.

"Seeing the belly of Corner 16 packed with people for our World Cups post-2010, it fires these guys up," Dornan said. "Athletes want to compete with a lot of people, a lot of noise."

While Dornan doesn't yet have an official line on other tracks that could be in the mix, he noted Germany is the sports' Mecca and tends to make strong attempts to bring the major events to their venues, though he'd expect a large number of them would venture here should the local bid be accepted.

"There were 15,000 to 20,000 people there. It was a sliding sport extravaganza," said Dornan of the recently completed Winterberg events. "For them, it's the Stanley Cup playoffs. It's the Stanley Cup final, actually, for the sliding sport community."

Because of the existing relationship between national and international sport organizations, the national bodies take the lead on any bids. Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) CEO Roger Soane is thrilled the local venue was tapped this time around.

"In any of the world-class venues, one of the goals is to host world-class events. The legacies were really put in place to do that," he said. "You don't build a facility like this and just use it as a training centre. You want to showcase it."

Soane explained the WSL will help BCS put together a professional presentation to show off at the FIBT congress in Belgium. He said there is not yet an estimated price tag to host the event, but it wouldn't come cheaply.

"That's why we look for partners like the provincial and federal governments to hold any of these major sporting events," he said. "To hold a world championship, there's always a substantial fund needed."

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and Tourism Whistler will also have roles in trying to make the pitch a success.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she first heard about the pitch in recent weeks, but is on-board with the attempt to bring the most significant sliding event outside of the Olympics to Whistler.

"Should we get the bid, we'll be involved with some of the additional things that would be occurring during that period, like the animation, parade of nations and that kind of thing," she said. "We have a fairly integral role in the bid."

She said there is no estimate for what the RMOW would budget at this time. However, with the event expected to generate significant traffic, Wilhelm-Morden said the financial benefits would be significant, especially with the local community efficiently welcoming the world in nearly scientific fashion.

"We do this so well," Wilhelm-Morden said. "We host international sporting events as a matter of course here in Whistler and we do such a great job with it."

Innsbruck-Igls, Austria, will host in 2016 while most recent Olympic site Sochi, Russia, will welcome the athletes in 2017. The event will not be held in 2018 as the Winter Olympic Games will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea, that winter.

North America last hosted the event in 2012 when the championships descended on Lake Placid, N.Y.

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