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2006 Olympic hopefuls attend excellence workshop

On paper, making the leap from World Cup to the Olympics may not look like much — the athletes are the same, as are the venues and regulations.

But when you factor in the extra media attention, the huge crowds, and the added pressures and expectations, it’s never just another game, race, or competition.

To help Canadian athletes know what to expect at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Own the Podium group hosted a weekend seminar called Own It at Lake Louise that was attended by over 100 Olympic hopefuls. It was the second event in the Torino Excellence Series, and included workshops with past Olympians on how to develop an Olympic plan, handling challenges they may encounter, and focussing on their own performance.

The workshop was well received by the athletes.

"It’s amazing to hear from some of Canada’s greatest Olympians, to learn about the challenges they faced, and how they prepared for their podium performances," said Jennifer Heil, a world champion mogul skier who finished fourth in the last Winter Games. "It’s great to know that they struggled with some of the same challenges I face in my training and during competition. I feel like I’m more prepared than ever to climb that podium in Turin next year."

Among the other athletes taking part were freestylers Jeff Bean and Stephanie St-Pierre; alpine skiers Emily Brydon, Thomas Grandi and John Kucera; snowboarders Justin Lamoureux and Erin Simmons; and figure skaters Joannie Rochette and Cynthia Phaneuf.

The list of presenters included downhiller Steve Podborski, aerialists Nicolas Fontaine and Veronica Brenner, figure skaters Lloyd Eisler and Tracy Wilson, hockey player Cassie Campbell, and speed skaters Susan Auch and Francois Drolet.

"It was my first time participating in the event," said Fernie’s Emily Brydon. "It was great to meet other athletes from various sports and to get to talk with past Olympians. Their talks were extremely inspirational and inspired me to continue my preparation for the 2005-2006 season. I definitely feel more prepared for the 2006 Olympics now that I’ve been educated on topics such as dealing with the media, family, and living with other athletes."

The closing speech came from triple gold medal rower Marnie McBean, and the theme was taking responsibility for your own success.

The next Olympic Excellence Series will take place in November of 2006, and will continue every year leading up to 2010.