Ski jumpers eager to prove themselves in 2014 

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It's been a little while since a ski jump competition has been held in Whistler, but the venue was perfect for the Aviva National Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined championships this past weekend. And if Ski Jumping Canada chair Brent Morrice has his way the team will be back at Whistler Olympic Park in late November to prepare for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

"What a beautiful facility and what a great day," said Morrice at the conclusion of the nationals on Saturday afternoon.

"It's very important for Ski Jumping Canada to get these hills open in the fall, like late November or early December. It would really help us out in our quest for medals at the 2014 Olympics."

The team's young athletes are starting to move up the ranks in international competition, and Morrice is confident that the team will qualify a full team for Sochi.

"I expect to have two men and we're expecting to have three or possibly four women qualified," said Morrice. " A few of the male athletes still need to qualify, but they're close. Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes has already qualified on the men's side and Eric Mitchell is getting closer. On the women's side I'm comfortable saying that Atsuko Tanaka and Alexandra Pretorius have qualified at this point, and I think Taylor Heinrich is right behind them. The good thing about the women's team is that they have a genuine chance at a medal."

As the snow sports team that gets the second-least funding from Own the Podium — just $100,000 last year — Morrice said its important to get results. However, Morrice supports Own the Podium's funding system, which directs more funds at athletes and sports where Canada has proven medal potential. "Ski jumping is going to get there, and of course funding comes with results. As we get closer to the Games, Own the Podium narrows its focus even more, but I'm confident that ski jumping will continue to get money. We're a young team with a lot of talented jumpers, and we're on our way up."

One new initiative he's hopeful will raise money for the team is the Snow Sport Consortium (see page 51), which will seek sponsors for all of Canada's snow sports rather than individual sporting organizations. Said Morrice of the inititiative: "...It was about time."

"We can offer a wide breadth of exposure that way," he said. "Ski jumping is massive in Europe, and sponsors know that, but it's hard for us in North America. But by joining forces as a combined winter sports group, and going after some sponsors that want to get involved and help the team, it's a great opportunity."

The off-season is particularly important to the team, with athletes competing on a Grand Prix circuit where competitors take-off and land on plastic. "It's extremely important for us for getting results and making points, and for the guys who really need to step up if they want to go to the Olympics."

Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes did not compete at nationals with a broken collarbone, but other members of the team stepped up in his place.

In the 125-metre long hill jump, Swiss jumper Kalin Pascal placed first overall with a 134.5 metre jump. American jumper Peter Frenette was second with 126.5, and Canada's Eric Mitchell third with a 124.5.

On the women's side, Atsuko Tanaka was first with a jump of 122.5, followed by Alexandra Pretorius with a 112 and Taylor Henrich with a 102.5.

In the normal hill competition the previous day, the women's podium was the same, while in the men's category it was Kalin Pascal, followed by Brian Wallace of the U.S. and Dusty Korek of Calgary.

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