This past weekend's Aviva Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined National Championships had a bit of international flavour, and that's something that Canadian officials for the sport would like to see more of at Whistler Olympic Park in the future.
Athletes from Switzerland and the United States were part of this year's Canadian Championships, which took place March 28 and 29 at the venue for the 2010 Games.
Canadian Olympian Atsuko Tanaka capped off her season with the national women's title in both the large and normal hills, edging teammate Taylor Henrich in the two events.
Swiss jumper Gregor Deschwanden, who had four of his countrymen in the field last weekend as well, took top spot on both hills in men's competition. Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes took the Canadian title with a runner-up finish on the normal hill, while fellow Olympian Matthew Rowley was the top Canadian on the large hill with a fourth-place result.
Curtis Lyon, high performance director for Ski Jumping Canada, said it's nice to see athletes from other countries making the trip to Whistler for what's billed as a domestic event — even if the rainy conditions made for a difficult weekend.
"We had one of the Swiss guys last year, so I'm sure he told them how it was sunny and 20 degrees every day," laughed Lyon.
"We're looking to build that year over year with the other sport organizations, because it is one of the only jumps that can operate this late into the winter because of the elevation and amount of snow they get up there. Most of the jumps in Europe close (by the) middle of March."
Though Canadian titles were on the line, Lyon said the two days of jumping were more of a fun way for the World Cup-level athletes to finish out their seasons before a short break and a return to training in June.
Tanaka and Henrich have been competitive on the women's World Cup circuit, and both earned top-15 finishes when competing in Sochi for the first Olympic women's competition this winter. Ski Jumping Canada would love to bring a World Cup to Whistler in the future, but there's still likely a ways to go before that can happen.
"Tentatively, we're going to try to have a Nor-Am competition, sort of a junior championships for (the) U.S.A. and Canada. It's not as expensive as an international competition, so we've got that on the list for next year," said Lyon.
"Basically, funding is the issue with holding a World Cup. A women's World Cup is north of $200,000... so we're definitely gung-ho to have an international event there, but we'd need to find the money."
However, Lyon said he's been impressed with the volunteer base that has been built up in the Sea to Sky, and that there's less of a need to bring in help from Calgary's Canada Olympic Park to run events like the national championships. That bodes well for future
The Canadian team made three different trips to Whistler Olympic Park this year, and Lyon said that's the most in one winter since the 2010 Games. The venue was officially designated as a National Training Centre earlier this year, and last month marked the launch of the "Flight 2022" development program aimed at introducing preteen athletes to the sport.
"It's amazing that we're going to have 30 or 40 kids jumping there next winter," said Lyon. "It's huge for our sport, and they've got the complete package out there. They have volunteers that are interested, they have a domestic club and they have the big jumps. We'll keep supporting them, and we'll look for big things maybe in 2022 from that club."
Henrich skied to the women's Nordic combined title on March 28, Tyler Smith edged Wesley Savill for the men's victory, and Jack Van Lierop was the junior winner. Visit www.callaghanwintersportsclub.ca for full results.
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