Snowboard federation not resting on its laurels 

Whistler training camps next on the schedule

It was a banner season for the Canadian Snowboard Federation (CSF), with athletes winning a record 26 medals - two more than the previous season, and with 12 different athletes stepping up in different events.

Not everything went according to plan. Injuries took their toll and affected past World Cup snowboardcross champion Drew Neilson, alpine rookie of the year Matt Morrison, Olympic snowboardcross bronze medalist Dominique Vallée and various members of the halfpipe team at different points in the season. There were also a lot of near-misses, with athletes coming just short of medals - e.g. Whistler's Maëlle Ricker finished fourth in three races and fifth in another - but, overall, CSF chief executive Tom McIllfaterick is positive about the team less than a year out from the Games.

"Obviously we're coming along," he said. "The number of results is comparable to last year, but now we're starting to see the results we're getting as a consequence of the programs we now have in place... compared to just the individual talents of athletes. The fact that we now have proper support for them and a system is a big step forward. That shows in the results and puts us in good shape moving forward to next year."

McIllfaterick says injuries are par for the course, and he doesn't like to think of what might have been if all the athletes were healthy this year. He is encouraged by the number of athletes finishing in the top-10, and by the fact that 12 athletes were on the podium this year.

"Over a year ago we identified a large pool of athletes that were moving forward to 2010, and it was a question of getting them to perform. But we're still getting athletes stepping up and taking advantage of the support and programs we have. It's looking good for our results, and in terms of our depth as well."

Picking a team will come down to results, but the coaches will also have some say - especially in the sport of halfpipe, where athletes have struggled with funding in recent years. The CSF is only considering results from events that have a full competition-size halfpipe with 22-foot walls, and many World Cup events do not. They will also look at things like an athlete's development - what tricks they know and are learning - as well as their performance at camps, including a training camp on Blackcomb that got underway this week. There is also a snowboardcross camp taking place in co-operation with a ski cross Canada camp.

"It's tough," McIllfaterick admitted. "We're being tough, and also pointing the athletes more to the concept of performance on demand. That's why the test events at Cypress counted - we wanted to say 'a year from now we need you to perform on this hill under whatever conditions, so if you can perform today then it counts.'"

The team will also train in Canada as much as possible this summer, depending on snow conditions. In addition to the camps in Whistler, they are looking into booking space at Farnham Glacier near Invermere this summer to complement dryland training programs.

"If we want to be on the podium in 2010, we have to start putting in the effort now," said McIllfaterick. "We've been building up to this, and this is a very important summer for us."

The International Olympic Committee deadline for naming a team is Jan. 25, and McIllfaterick says they will name their team on Jan. 24 following a World Cup event. All events between now and then will be taken into consideration.

Financially, the team has been struggling recently with the loss of a key sponsor. Own The Podium 2010 has been helping to make up the funding based on their own formula that takes medal chances into account, but until recently athletes shouldered some of their own travelling, accommodation and coaching costs.

RBC has stepped up as the title sponsor since then, with 19 other companies getting on board to support national program and grass roots development in Canada.

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