Difficult choices ahead for ski jumping, Nordic combined 

New funding needed or programs will be out in the cold

There’s been a lot of talk but little action since the Calgary Olympic Development Association announced last week that it would no longer be able to continue funding the sports of ski jumping and Nordic combined, an event that combines jumping and cross-country skiing. After the 2004-05 season, CODA will be pulling its support for the sports and putting that funding into sports where Canada has a better chance of winning medals.

"We met with the Canadian Olympic Association this weekend, and (funding) was a topic there, and of course the funding agents and sports are going to be having meetings in the weeks ahead," said John Mills, president of CODA.

As host nation for the 2010 Winter Games, Canada will be entitled to field qualified athletes in every event, but without more funding Canada may not even be able to do that.

"It’s too early to determine if that’s possible or not, but everyone seems to be willing to talk, so I would take that as a positive step," said Mills.

The central issue is the ski jumping facility built for the 1988 Winter Games in Canada Olympic Park. The facility requires $450,000 a year to run, and makes little in the way of revenues. It does get used by about 80 ski jumpers and Nordic combined hopefuls in high performance and development programs, but with no results to speak of in either discipline in well over a decade, CODA wants to shift funding towards other priorities.

In addition, the facility itself is inadequate and requires significant upgrades to bring it back to international standards. As well as minor repairs such as new plastic for the run in and landing, the landing area needs to be reshaped significantly.

"One of the issues is that with the new ski techniques, the V technique, they’re flying a lot further than they were in 1988 and they’re out-jumping the landing hill," said Mills.

The landing area would have to be extended significantly to ensure that skiers don’t land on the flat area, possibly injuring themselves in the process.

It will cost about $6.5 million in capital upgrades to bring the ski jump up to standard says Mills, money which CODA does not have. That figure doesn’t include any of the wind control measures that Calgary asked for when it launched its bid to host the 2010 Games.

"The tremendous advantage of the site is that it’s close to the city for athletes to access it, but the main disadvantage is that the site gets prevailing winds from the west that blow right across the face of the jump," said Mills.

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