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Own the Podium sets lofty goals for 2010

Additional $110 million in funding announced in quest to win 35 medals

The good news is that Canada’s winter national sport organizations could have as much as $110 million in new money to spend on athletes, coaches, training, and technology between now and 2010.

The bad news is that the money won’t be spent equally among winter sports. Instead, the Canadian Olympic Committee will provide less funding to sports where Canada is not considered a medal contender for 2010, and more to sports where Canadians have a good chance of winning medals. Those decisions will be based on past results, the strength of the current athletes and the number of potential athletes in a sport.

"Own the Podium 2010 is the program that will make Canada the top sporting nation in the world in 2010," said Chris Rudge, the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee. "Canada has many talented athletes and coaches who need a strong program and additional support to reach the Olympic podium."

The Vancouver Organizing Committee has already contributed half of the $110 million Own The Podium has targeted. Sports organizations are waiting for the federal government to contribute the other half.

That money is on top of the money already spent on those sports and athletes by Sport Canada, which has a total budget of $120 million for summer and winter sports, as well as participation initiatives.

Only $16.5 million of that money goes towards winter national sports organizations (NSOs), although athletes may qualify to receive additional Sport Canada funding through the Athlete Assistance Program.

After weighing funding requests from the NSOs, Own The Podium is suggesting an increase of $10.1 million a year for five years, with the NSOs pooling their resources. An additional $11 million will go towards recruitment, plus another $10 million a year for the Top Secret—2010 program, which will develop sport science and technology for Games. The Top Secret funding will be split between human performance initiatives, such as training and conditioning technologies and technology initiatives such as new suits and equipment improvements.

The goal for 2010 is to lead all nations with 35 medals, or double what Canada achieved at the Winter Games in 2002.

In order to accomplish that, the Own the Podium task force was created to study the potential of spots. The task force determined that Canada could only increase its medal count in two ways: by increasing the number of potential medallists from 160 to 211 between now and 2010, and by simultaneously ensuring that those athletes reach their potential.

The success rate for Canadian athletes is 27 per cent, which means that about a quarter of our athletes who were favoured to win medals actually came through on the big day. The COC would like to increase that number to at least 50 per cent.

By way of comparison, at the Salt Lake Games in 2002, the success rate for American athletes was 63 per cent. The German team had 13 medal hopefuls in 2002, 12 of whom came through to win a medal for a better than 90 per cent success rate.

"When we won the bid to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it was a win for all of Canada on the promise of great success," said John Furlong, VANOC CEO. "But for Canadians real success in 2010 means equal part perfect organization and execution and golden athletic performance by our athletes. Own the Podium—2010 brings science, ingenuity and home field advantage together with a vision of unprecedented success. We all have a stake in this."

Tom McIllfaterick, CEO of the Canadian Snowboard Federation, agreed. "This is kind of a radical idea, and I think they’ve done a good job with the idea of funding sports according to medal potential," he said. "I think Canadians do want to win medals at home, I know our athletes do, and this will help us to give them the support they need to make that happen. We have a strong team now, and we’re only getting stronger."

According to the Task Force final report, government funding for various sports will increase significantly. Many sports also have corporate supporters.

Of the Tier 1 Sports – biggest priority – hockey will see its budget increase by $435,000 with all of those funds going towards the women’s program. Current Sport Canada funding is $1,935,000, with another $498,000 through the Athlete Assistance Program.

Curling will see its budget increase by $350,000 from $1,024,000, on top of $290,000 from the AAP.

Long track speed skating will see a budget increase of $710,000 from $1,145,000. AAP funding is $298,000.

Short track speed skating will get an additional $505,000 a year on top of its current budget of $1,145,000. Their AAP carded athletes currently receive $297,000.

For Figure Skating, the annual budget will increase $550,000 from $1,217,000. Athletes currently receive $258,000 from AAP.

In the Tier 2 category, alpine skiing will see the largest increase. Alpine Canada has called for an additional $2.5 million a year on top of $1,364,000 in funding. Their carded athletes currently receive $299,000.

The Canadian Freestyle Ski Association will see its budget increased by $690,000 annually in the first year, which includes $150,000 in upgrades for the water ramps in Whistler. Their current budget is $1,364,000, with AAP funding of $344,000.

The Canadian Snowboard Federation will see its budget more than double, with $771,000 in new investment on top of the current budget of $695,000. AAP funding is $70,000, but will increase with nine athletes finishing in the top-16 at the recent world championships.

Cross-country funding will increase $700,000 over its current allotment of $1,006,000. AAC funding is $175,000.

The Tier 3 sports, which are almost entirely reliant on federal funding, will receive funding that’s commensurate with their medal prospects for 2010.

Biathlon will receive $600,000, doubling its current budget of $557,000. AAP funding is $88,000.

Bobsleigh will see a budget increase of $884,000 on top of the $1,210,000 the sport already receives. AAP funding is $242,000.

Skeleton will see an increase of $561,000, more than tripling its existing budget of $151,000. AAP funding is $93,000.

Luge will see $360,000 over its current budget of $310,000. AAP funding is $91,000.

Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined will receive the smallest increases, as neither sport is expected to field a podium contender by 2010, although the task force acknowledged that both sports have a shot at the top-10.

Both sports currently receive $189,000 a year, with additional funding for facilities coming from the Calgary Olympic Development Association through a legacy agreement with the federal government. CODA is attempting to halt that funding at the end of March, and both organizations are fighting to have that money restored. Ski Jumping will see an increase of $295,000, and Nordic Combined an increase of $235,000, which will almost restore funding if CODA pulls the plug. Neither sport has any athletes qualified for AAP funding.

The Canadian Paralympic Committee will be releasing its plan in the next few months.