For the first time in this Olympic rotation the Canadian Freestyle Snowboarding Team will be competing as a team at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival.
The national team is usually focussed on internationally accredited, or FIS, events but the national coach, Tom Hutchinson, said he wanted to get the team into some professional events before the 2006 Olympics and the WSSF was a good place to start.
"It’s going to be our first time going to a non-FIS event, so it’s going to be interesting," Hutchinson said.
"This is a good way to get into the pro events for our team and it’s also nice that the pro event we’re doing first is a Canadian event."
Hutchinson said the decision to bring the team to Whistler was inspired by the athletes.
"The athletes are the ones that came to me and said it would be really good to do it so I said, OK lets go."
Hutchinson said some members of the team were injured but he expected several big names, such as Maelle Ricker, Crispin Lipscomb, Mercedes Nicoll , Mike Michalchuk and Sarah Conrad, to compete.
The Canadian Snowboard Team is on the cusp of an extremely important period because next season they will be trying to qualify for Olympic team spots.
"This coming year is an Olympic qualifying year so we have to be at every FIS event, but we’d like to throw in some pro events too," Hutchinson said.
At the Salt Lake Games Canada had a full quota of four men competing in the freestyle competitions but only one woman, Natasza Zurek, qualified.
"Last time (the team) waited until everyone was ready to go and they only got to a few events… this year you better podium twice and then you can miss contests, because I don’t want to take a chance," Hutchinson said.
"Last time we came 23, 24, 25 in the women and they took the top 20 (to the Olympics).
"Some countries are saying they’re only going to go to some FIS events but I bet you every country will be at every event because the Olympics is a huge thing."
Hutchinson said he was happy with the team’s progress thus far and was excited about the kinds of scouting programs the national body was implementing.
"We’ve gotten away from the thinking that we want to just go to the Olympics.
"With my team we want to go win, and I know we can."
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