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Sport Centre’s role to expand

Support for Olympic athletes enhanced by successful bid With the Olympics coming to B.C. in six and a half years, there is a renewed enthusiasm for training future Olympians to succeed at home.

Support for Olympic athletes enhanced by successful bid

With the Olympics coming to B.C. in six and a half years, there is a renewed enthusiasm for training future Olympians to succeed at home.

Thanks to the efforts of Todd Allison and others at the TELUS Whistler Sport Centre – and the faith of the province in the bid – the athletes have a head start.

Created as part of the 2010 LegaciesNow program early in the bid process, the TWSC’s mandate was to guide athletes towards Winter Games. Since studies suggest it takes ten years and 10,000 hours to train an Olympic athlete the sooner potential athletes can be developed the better.

The TWSC was also created to provide support to elite level athletes living and training in Whistler.

Now that the Olympics are on the way, the TWSC will play an even larger role in athlete support and development.

"The dust is still going up on this," said Allison, general manager of the TELUS sport centre.

"It’s not even coming down yet. But we do know there will be a centre of training and activity based around this centre."

"What we are being told is they want the TELUS Whistler Sport Centre to coordinate these activities, either through LegaciesNow or PacificSport. We already have something on the ground, a platform to leap off to help the national teams when they come to town."

According to Allison, the program had two goals at the beginning, and a third emerged in the process.

"First we are a regional athlete support centre for national team athletes, making sure all athletes have access to training facilities, to medical services, and to information," he explained.

"Another part is sport development. We’ve done things to research different sports, Olympic and Paralympic, trained coaches, and even put some athletes directly on the national team.

"There are some great stories…like Jenny Harvey, who is with the national bobsleigh team. (Those athletes) hadn’t even thought of doing those sports until we went out and did exposure camps with them."

For the past two years, the TWSC has gone on the road, introducing youths to sports like biathlon, bobsleigh and luge, and ski jumping. The most promising kids have since taken part in training programs, many going as far as the Canadian Olympic Centre in Calgary. Some of them, like Harvey, have been invited back and encouraged to continue to pursue sports at the local level.

The TWSC also helped the national alpine ski team keep their training costs down, and the freestyle ski team to develop an aerials program.

"Our third main area wasn’t identified at first," said Allison.

"But it’s become quite a big part of what we do, and that’s national team support, where we’re really going to have an impact over the long-term," Allison said.

While most people think of a team as one body, you can actually break each team down into smaller teams, including national teams, speed teams, or mogul teams. Each one of these teams has different needs.

"We can help them get access to training facilities, help them to find accommodation, low-cost housing, the services they need when they come to town," said Allison.

The TELUS centre can take some of the administrative headaches out of training, and help to find and centralize information and programs for all athletes and teams to tap into.

Allison said the last two years have been busy, but great. As a former competitive freestyle skier, and a coach with the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team, he came into the job with a lot of ideas.

"What an opportunity it’s been to be able to jump right in and make a difference right away for athletes, whether it’s the established athletes or helping people to identify their potential and move forward" he said.

"We’ve been getting a lot of support from our board of directors …We have the flexibility, the funding and the ability to make a real difference for the sport system."

Although the sports are different, some of the basics in coaching, training and nutrition overlap for different sports. The TWSC has put those together in such a way that all national sports organizations have been able to take advantage of the programs.

"One day I’ll be working with a cross-country Nodric program, and the next day I’ll be helping the national disabled alpine team," said Allison.

"The Olympics aren’t as far away as they looked a couple years ago, that’s for sure. Everybody wants to be ready."