Kids starting Olympic legacies now 

Three teens named to luge national development team

A dozen teenagers were introduced to luge last November on a quiet residential Kimberley street.

And with the help of a coach and two athletes they were soon flying down the asphalt at about 35 km/h and swerving around pylons every 30 metres.

About half a dozen of the group then went on to an ice camp in Calgary, followed by competitions on the Alberta Luge Circuit.

Just last week three of the original dozen were named to the national development team.

"If it hadn’t been for LegaciesNow, they never would have heard of luge," said Todd Allison, general manager, TELUS Whistler Sports Centre, who organized the event.

Since last August Allison has been targeting sport development in 13 different snow and sliding winter sports, both Olympic and Paralympic.

The success of the three Kimberley teens is just one example of the little changes in sport development, which can ultimately make a huge difference to sport.

Part of the job as general manager of the TELUS Whistler Sports Centre is testing teens that might show the knack for one of the sliding sports, either luge, bobsleigh or skeleton.

The teens, typically 13 to 14 years old, are tested in a 30-metre sprint and a 60-metre sprint. Their upper body strength is tested with a medicine ball.

"It’s incredible and they have so much fun doing it," said Allison who outlined the achievements at last week’s 2010 Bid Corporation’s Info Zone live meeting.

The prime candidate is a kid who is fast but also has upper body strength. Cross training is a key aspect to sliding sports because they can develop speed and strength off the racetrack.

Allison is targeting potential luge athletes in the East Kootenay’s in order to access the facilities in Calgary.

"I’m B.C. focused but I’ve annexed Calgary," he said.

"We have to start using those facilities instead of reinventing the wheel."

Younger age groups were also targeted as future ski jumpers.

This year a ski jump was set up again in the East Kootenay’s. Allison said they were looking for kids between 6 to 10 years old, with certain spatial awareness.

The jump was about 10 metres long.

Based on that one day ski jumping, four kids have now gone off to a ski jumping camp in Calgary.

"We want to put athletes on the podium but at the same time we want the sports to realize that it is not that hard to do these little things," he said.

Other things on the go include bringing mogul coaches and former athletes to Whistler, as well as having presentations for athletes on things like nutrition and setting goals.

With a budget of $450,000 from the Olympic bid’s LegaciesNow program, Allison said they are trying to finance each sport equally.

Not all sports are financed with introductory events, like ski jumping and the luge.

Other sports have had more physical financial investments.

For example, five new shooting targets were purchased for the Biathalon and have been set up at Silverstar.

They may move to Pemberton in the future.

The centre also bought an Ekocounter system, which acts like a rifle but only shoots a signal, for the Paralympic Biathalon.

Allison is hoping to take it into the schools and into G.F. Strong, a rehabilitation centre, to let people try it out.

"These people could be on the podium in 2006," he said.

Coaches have also felt the advantages of the LegaciesNow program and have been benefiting from the bid’s commitment to sport development.

This winter the centre facilitated a cross-country skiing coaching certification program, adding 34 new cross-country coaches to the province.

More recently, eight new freestyling coaches were certified. Many were former national team skiers.

Allison said the TELUS Whistler Sports Centre tries to keep the costs down as much as possible to entice more potential coaches to participate.

By getting more people involved, Allison is hoping to kick-start some interest in some of the smaller, lesser-known sports.

"We’re trying to change the whole paradigm of what we’re doing in Canadian coaching," he said.

"If we get more coaches out there, potentially we can get more athletes and better athletes and potentially fewer injuries."

Allison will continue making the little differences over the next year as the TELUS Whistler Sports Centre is guaranteed funding until next summer. While the funding may eventually end, he sees the goal as an ongoing process.

"Win or lose the decision (for the 2010 Olympics), we’re still going to be helping sport," he said.

"I want to help sport help itself."

Allison will be outside the Olympic Bid Office on Monday for the Canada Day celebrations.

He will be setting up the 30 metre sprints to test local kids.

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