Saturday, July 20, 2002 - Athlete Perspective
Is the Canadian Olympic Commitee on track for gold in 2010?

By: Sara Renner

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced it is abandoning the strategy of equitably spreading of itís sponsorship bounty.

The COC is the largest private sector funder of high performance sport in Canada and funds 45 Olympic sports of which 29% are winter sports. In the future, sports and athletes that win medals will have a bigger piece of the pie. The COC will dole out seven million dollars, slightly less than in the past due to poor performance in the markets, to sport over the next four years.

For the first time ever, Salt Lake City athletes will be awarded bonuses for performances. Gold to an eighth place translates to $2000 and the year prior to the next Olympics it is increased to $8000. Our eighth place finish in the relay makes the Cross Country Team eligible.

Personal funding might be peanuts to athletes like double Olympic medallist Catriona Le May Doan but it does make a difference to developing athletes. Olympic performances are not inspired by monetary incentives, but extra funding helps top class athletes continue in the absence of corporate support. Unfortunately, the COC new funding protocol potentially supports athletes at a time when they need it the least and ignores the progression of improvement. Catriona probably would have needed the extra funding when sponsors were harder to find after her 33 place finish in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.

Federations are also awarded for performance. Speed skating earned close to a million dollars. Catriona said this funding would allow them to ďdo all the camps we need to, we can go to all the world cups (and) have a massage therapist.Ē International experience, systemized training and recovery are the basic elements for sports excellence. The Speed Skating Associationís struggle to deliver a quality program is discouraging for the other sports organizations that have substantially fewer resources.

Hockey Canada was next in line for the COC contributions. It is unfortunate that the Hockey Team accepted funding that ultimately takes away from other amateur sports. If you took eight of the top paid NHL players on the Olympic team their annual income average at a sweet 11 million. One playerís salary would generously fund the entire COC program for over four years. There is no question that the Womenís Hockey Team is in need of funding, but the star studded menís team could have found some spare pocket change to support itself.

The COC aims to be number one by the 2010 Olympics. To transform this pipe dream to a reality will require a substantial increase in funding to development from Sport Canada, the COC and corporate Canada.

Nordic sports comprise 40% of the medal count. While Cross Country Skiing retained most of itís funding until 2005, the future of sports like Biathlon, Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined is uncertain.

If you looked at the American Team at the 1998 Nagano Olympics it would be risky to put your money on them placing in the top 3 in Salt Lake City. That proves that anything is possible. If Canadians want their athletes to be a sure bet in 2010, a serious investment in young athletes is required today.

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