Doug Savage: Honoured Lifetime Builder

Dedicated to ensuring the ski racing field of play is safe, secure and ready for speed!

CRSRHOF-2018-thumbnailHis life in ski racing has been a living example of ‘pay it forward’. From coaching young skiers with two-time World Champion Lucile Wheeler in the Eastern Townships of Quebec in the 1960’s to managing the extensive hardware needed to stage World Cup races nearly 60 years later, Doug Savage has devoted his life to building ski racing for the young ladies and men that aim to represent Canada.

Doug’s early years in the sport centred around coaching and subsequently providing service to National Team athletes with Atomic and Nordica. In the 1980’s, alongside Gord Reece, Doug helped found the Kananaskis Alpine Racing Team when Nakiska was established.

Like so many in our sport, the 1988 Olympic Winter Games were a memorable highlight. “It was a very special experience working as Assistant Chief of Course for the ladies alpine events in 1988,” said Doug. “It inspired me to continue to support athletes and their ski racing dreams.”

The 1988 Games and securing annual World Cup events at Lake Louise meant Alberta had an enormous inventory of equipment to be used for all levels of events across western Canada. Doug’s post-Olympic involvement in our sport took a unique turn after the Games, managing the growing inventory of equipment necessary to stage safe events in alpine ski racing: “A’ nets, “B” nests, Willy-bags, air fences, crowd control fencing …. with material that runs into thousands of metres and which must be maintained continuously and managed to ensure it is delivered, set up properly, taken down and returned for storage and maintenance. Managing race equipment inventory is not exciting, but it is absolutely essential for our sport.

Doug took on the role of Equipment Manager initially with Alberta Alpine and subsequently with Alpine Canada when the scope of this role grew. Managing safety is much more than ensuring the gear is maintained and kept current. “We worked continuously towards making improvements to equipment to ensure the safety of the athletes,” said Doug. “This involved hundreds of minor innovations and most important, working with individuals and companies to support safe and successful racing”.

“I believe that it is all about the kids and their passion for skiing, continues Doug. “Our job is to support these kids in their development both on and off the ski hill, but most importantly, support their love for the sport.”

Doug would describe his sport pathway as different, perhaps a bit unconventional, but he has no regrets. “Ski racing has been a part of my whole life,” he says. “Ski racing and the amazing people I’ve met through this sport have shaped the person I am today and made me a better person. Ski racing has inspired me. I’m so grateful for this journey.”

There are many who inspired our Honoured Builder in his life-long commitment to our sport. From his father, Alfred Savage, “he always told me if you work hard, do a good job and show respect to everyone, you will be a successful person”, to Ron Allision (father of Canadian Team alumni Bobby Allison) “once you start a job, you finish it. Make a plan and stick with it.” To 2016 Honoured Builder, the late Fred Bosinger “he shared long talks about ski racing, the ski community and life, and I will always be grateful for his support and encouragement”

He is quiet, reliable, focused and enormously committed to athletes, volunteers, officials and coaches who work so hard in our sport. And for Doug Savage, this has been his focus, his passion and his legacy: safe ski racing.

The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame and Alberta Alpine are pleased to recognize Doug Savage, our 2018 Honoured Builder, who has devoted his life to athletes in ski racing to ensure the competitive area of the sport is safe, secure and built so they can focus on skiing fast.

The 2018 Class will be inducted at the Highest Peak Gala, hosted at the Hotel Arts in Calgary on Tuesday, October 30th. This event was first held in 1968, to support ski racing excellence in Alberta and western Canada. The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame event is a legacy event with the goal to support future champions in the province, with all proceeds invested into Alberta Ski Racing programs.

http://albertaalpine.ca/2018/10/18/crsrhof2018-doug-savage-honoured-lifetime-builder/

 

 

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Rob Imbrogno: Honoured Lifetime Volunteer


October 15, 2018

A dedicated volunteer who is committed to building a legacy of success for Canadian athletes

CRSRHOF-2018-thumbnailNearly fourty years ago, the urgent call went out for volunteers to help stage Canada’s first-ever World Cup downhill at Lake Louise in March/1980. Calgary had just announced the intention to bid for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. The final World Cup of the season in Europe had been cancelled and was awarded to Canada. In a four-week window, it was an opportunity to put the Canadian Rockies on the ski racing map and demonstrate our capacity to host major events.

Rob Imbrogno was one of hundreds of volunteers who responded to the urgent call.

There are very few volunteers in the world that can include 108 World Cup races, 117 Nor-Am races and the full program of the XV Olympic Winter Games on their resume. All launched from a request to build a radio communication network for that inaugural World Cup event.

“I’ve been involved in World Cup and Nor-Am races in so many various capacities over 39 years,” said Rob. “Chief of Radio Communications and Data Services, Executive Director of Infrastructure, Director of Marketing and now Managing Director and CEO for Winterstart Events Ltd. Volunteering has allowed me to see the world through ski racing, get involved with some special events – especially the 1988 Olympics, but most important has been the thrill of watching young Canadian ski racers make the podium at Lake Louise.”

Rob is quick to recognize that it takes a Team to build an annual event that includes five World Cup and five Nor-Am starts. “As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village’, continued Rob. “A village that includes volunteers that really get involved. Individuals that can share their expertise, so that young ski racers can have a future in ski racing. We need to ensure that the dreams of young ski racers are realized.”

“I am grateful to the many key individuals who had confidence in me throughout the time I’ve been involved with the World Cup and ski racing’, said our Honoured Volunteer. “. Leaders including John Cassels (2017 Builder), Darrell MacLauchlan (2014 Builder), Bruce Hamstead and Dave Pym have influenced me in both the sport and business side of ski racing. These amazing individuals have become my friends and mentors.”

His dedication to athletes and the hard work that goes on behind the scene to build an annual World Cup is what motivates Rob and the crew he leads. His message to the athletes who benefit from the volunteers who invest thousands of hours to build the track: “Work hard and take advantage of all the opportunities available to you. Never forget those that have helped you along the way. When you have completed your racing career pay it forward by volunteering or coaching so that you can build a legacy for the next generation to succeed.”

“Ski racing has allowed me to witness history-making events in sport.” And for our Honoured Lifetime Volunteer, 2018 will write another chapter, as the world returns to Lake Louise for another Winterstart World Cup and Calgary is poised to bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

For the record, the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup has been responsible for successfully organizing 108 World Cup starts (72 Ladies races and 36 Men’s races). This is second only to Kitzbuhel, a remarkable achievement for a committed, talented and passionate group of volunteers.”

The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame is pleased to recognize Rob Imbrogno, our 2018 Honoured Volunteer, a dedicated leader whose four decades of commitment has built this remarkable ski racing legacy at Lake Louise, with a reputation as one of the world’s best sporting events.

The 2018 Class will be inducted at the Highest Peak Gala, hosted at the Hotel Arts in Calgary on Tuesday, October 30th. This event was first held in 1968, to support ski racing excellence in Alberta and western Canada. The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame event is a legacy event with the goal to support future champions in the province, with all proceeds invested into Alberta Ski Racing programs.

 

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16 Days of Glory? It’s so much more….

Winter is in the air. Our athletes have been hard at work throughout the spring, summer and autumn months will launch into the next winter campaign in less than 50 days.

In this same time-frame, the people of Calgary and area face a decision on November 13 – with a referendum to determine if we proceed, or not, with a bid for the 2026 Games.

I welcome the Games referendum as it provides us with a clear opportunity to express our views as a community towards the 2026 Games Project.

It is my sincere hope the next few weeks give us all a chance to reflect on where we have come from and where we hope to go. I only ask that the debate be informed, fair and respectful.

To consider the 2026 Games project, may I share a life-long perspective of sport in Calgary and how our city has been transformed.

Nakiska training

Image courtesy Alberta Alpine – Legends Speed Camp at Nakiska

In 1979 when Calgary was first considering a fourth Olympic bid (1964, 1968 and 1972 preceded the 1988 bid), sport opportunities in Calgary and elsewhere in Canada were limited. Hockey, figure skating, alpine and the nordic ski disciplines were the only sports that could be practiced within Canada on local venues. There was no sliding centre, no proper speed oval. Sporting venues capable of providing proper training for athletes at the world level were extremely limited. The experience base of officials and volunteers to support venues and competitions in several sports was scarce.

The opportunity to host the Games – which in 1988 was a 16 day event – did so much more to change our city and our country. The visible legacy are the venues in Calgary, Canmore and area. But the real legacy is in people, in the work they do every day as coaches, trainers, officials, volunteers and in many businesses, organizations and not-for-profit enterprises that have  transformed our city and our region, creating opportunity for youth and attracting world-leading expertise that remains in our country.

Our city – has been transformed. And not by a 16 day event, or even a 50-day event that now includes the Paralympics and Olympics. It is so much more.

This is a journey, one that encompasses clubs, team and competitions at every level long the athlete progression. It includes training 100+ days every year on local facilities for thousands of athletes. It employs coaches, trainers and a range of support staff – from the modest at the club level to the full compliment at the National Team.

Every winter – every winter – for the past 30 years, Calgary and western Canada host more than the equivalent of the Olympic Winter Games. World Cup or major competitions in every sport. These events are supported by a well-trained army of volunteers and officials who re-engage and maintain their credentials and knowledge every single year, because that is required by the International Sport Federations who sanction these events. This core of incredible people includes gate-keepers, timers, scorekeepers, they work the starts and finishes, maintain course surfaces, are referees and technical delegates …. it is an extensive list. It did not start in 1988 – it existed before but the Games of ’88 expanded our sport ‘workforce’ to cover all aspects of organization.

The legacy of 1988 was the expansion of our volunteer and officials capacity to encompass all winter sport and the enthusiasm to drive it.

Are facilities maintained? You bet. They are used extensively, at all levels, every-single-year. Who uses these facilities? Registered athletes with the sports, at every level – from age 6 to the Olympic podium. Thousands of them. Every-single-year since 1985.

So this is not about just 50 days. This is about how sport has managed our athletes, our venues, our events, our infrastructure, our volunteers and our officials – since 1988.

The sport legacy starts today. Yes, today. More than 50% of Canada’s 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Teams are already using the 2026 Games venues as members of our National Teams. The seven winter National Sport Organizations are already preparing training sessions and building competition committees for camps and events that will take place in a few weeks – as it has done for the past three decades.

The result of this foundation can be seen every year in World Cup and World Championship competition. The system that evaluates what we do every single day, seven days a week, for 52 weeks a year …. and have been doing for decades.

Delivering excellence.

calgary– – – – Posted June 23, 2016 – – – –

Each winter, the Calgary region hosts up to seven annual World Cup events. Another four winter sports stage World Championship or quadrennial World Cups. Alberta is home to eight of the twelve winter National Sport Organizations. Canadian Sport Institute Calgary has matured into the largest of Canada’s seven Sport Institutes.

In 1981, when a fairly obscure western Canadian city called Calgary won the right to host the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, none of this existed.

So much has changed on the sport landscape in 35 years. But to really understand the legacy of 1988, you need to think back to what it was like to be in sport prior to 1981.

There was no Saddledome, no Olympic Oval. The Canmore Nordic Centre and Nakiska did not exist. Canada Olympic Park was everyone’s favourite city ski hill called Paskapoo. The administration of most winter sports operated out of Ottawa, under the watchful eye of Sport Canada. Calgary hosted the Brier and Skate Canada and had held the first-ever World Cup downhill at Lake Louise. The Flames were new in town, housed in the 6,500 seat Corral.

There certainly was a thriving winter sport community. International calibre Olympic talent had emerged from local clubs and programs in alpine ski racing, figure skating, speed skating and hockey. Local boosters wanted to run events to showcase Calgary, Alberta and the Canadian Rockies, to give homegrown athletes as well as other Canadian Olympic prospects and talent in emerging sports like freestyle and shirt track speed skating  a chance to compete at home. To inspire local kids. But we lacked facilities and international experience.

So when Frank King galvanized a renewed Olympic bid from the Calgary Booster Club in 1979, he found a highly receptive audience and community.

I’m reflecting back to these early days of the 1988 Olympic bid, because it is so important to contrast what we take for granted today, with what existed 35 years ago. No annual World Cups. No National Teams based in the province. Rare international events. Ski resorts, hockey arenas and precious little else.

It was an enormous amount of sweat equity, ingenuity and investment that changed revolutionized sport in Canada. We all know how successful the 1988 Games were. But the real success story started through the preparation and development as Calgary ramped up for ’88.

To prepare for the Games, host cities are required to stage “pre-Olympic” events in all sports. A common-sense plan to test venues, give athletes a chance to train on Olympic sites, test logistics that range from transportation to security to pageantry, to train volunteers and work with partners that would include media, sponsors and funding agencies. The investment in people – volunteers and officials – delivered the capacity and know-how to organize annual World Cup events. Result: alpine skiing, bobsleigh, luge, skeleton and speed skating now are regular stops on the international calendar, with hockey, cross country skiing, biathlon, figure skating and curling hosting major events.

Successful annual events were bolstered by a will to build training environments. National Training Centres emerged as funding became available, with National Teams centralizing their year-round programs close to these venues. Result: National Training Centres for eleven (11) sports are now established at Canmore, Nakiska, the University of Calgary and Canada Olympic Park.

With National Teams centralized in Alberta, it followed that once Sport Canada allowed the National Sport Organizations to move their head offices to logical locations (rather than Ottawa), the administration of each sport followed the athletes. Result: Calgary and Canmore are now home to Hockey Canada, Alpine Canada, Luge Canada, Bobsleigh/Skeleton Canada, Ski Jump Canada, Nordic Combined Canada, Cross Country Canada and Biathlon Canada.

As Canada established a network of Canadian Sport Centres across the country to support our athletes, with most winter sports housed in the Calgary region is was a natural evolution that CSI-Calgary became the primary provider to winter sports. Sport Centres are the employer of the support teams that surround athletes including exercise physiologists, strength and conditioning coaches, biomechanics, dieticians, mental performance consultants, anthropometrists, biochemistry lab technicians, physicians, physiotherapists, athletic therapists, chiropractors and massage therapists. Working with funding partners at the federal, provincial and municipal level, WinSport Canada established the Athlete Centre within Canada Olympic Park that is now one of the leading facilities for athlete training in the world. Result: CSI-Calgary has evolved to become Canada’s largest Sport Institute, now employing more than 75 professionals and working with345 current and future Olympians/Paralympians and Pan-Am/Parapan athletes and hundreds of coaches, technicians, officials and volunteers working with sport organizations.

The steadily expanding sport expertise and availability of venues has easily accommodated the addition of new and emerging sports that were added to the Olympic program post-1988. First to be included were skeleton and freestyle (moguls and aerials), followed by snowboard (cross, alpine and half-pipe) and ski cross, then expanded to slopestyle and now big air. Result: skeleton, freestyle, snowboard, ski cross programs and events were merged into the Calgary and region sporting mix on venues that are arguably best in the world.

The circle of sport influence driven by the legacy of ’88 and the critical mass of sport expertise has continued to bring even more projects with a core sport focus to bolster the sector. Result: Canada’s Sport’s Hall of Fame, the winter offices of Own the Podium and National Sport School; complimenting sport are the Human Performance Lab at the University of Calgary and Sport & Wellness Engineering Technologies (SAIT). Expertise along with bricks and mortar that have gravitated to Calgary as a centre of sport excellence.

The human factor has enormous impact. From those who are passing through to many who came and put down roots, Calgary and area have been transformed. Many recognizable names within the sport community have come from other countries and parts of Canada. They have brought professional credentials and sporting pedigree. Their children have joined our clubs. Their leadership and expertise populate sport boards, event committees, administration of local, provincial and national organizations. Result: Hundreds of international athletes come to Canada each year for training and competition. Canadians from right across the country centralize to Calgary each year for their National Team programs. Many have elected to stay. Hundreds of sport professionals who lead and support our sport programs have been recruited from around the world and now call Canada home.

Just imagine if you can, almost none of this existed in 1981.

The business of international sport is no different than any other business sector. To remain competitive, relevant and to thrive, infrastructure needs to be maintained. Excellence is fluid, with the bar constantly raised. The medium that presents sport to the world is in flux with the expectations of digital delivery and efficient broadcast servicing a requirement for all sporting events from the World Cup level and up. We have an enormous sport business now resident in the region, so a review of existing and potential facilities and the infrastructure necessary to keep our competitive edge is a prudent business decision.

It hasn’t all been sweetness and light through this journey. Mistakes have been made, but an Olympic bid is a once in a generation chance to learn, adapt and improve in the same way Calgary learned from the Montreal experience and Vancouver learned from Calgary. But on balance, without doubt, the 1988 Games have been good for the city and region, province and country and an enormous lift for Canadian sport. Even a review to evaluate a potential bid is a chance to refresh, reinvigorate, renew, redress and rebuild.

This bid is for an event 10 years from today. At the core, the focus of the feasibility study should be on where we, as a community and country, would like to see this thriving sector evolve to by 2050 and beyond. To inspire youngsters, lift the next generation of champions, transfer knowledge to new leaders and officials. At a time where diversification is high on the list of urgent needs for our economy, sport and the related sectors of tourism and communications can figure prominently.

When the IOC announced “Calgary!” in October, 1981, none of us truly imagined the possibilities. What a journey. As we now look forward, what opportunity awaits us …..

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Fighting for the soul of skiing

Winter is an elemental part of the Canadian soul. Ice and snow. Wayne Gretzky and Nancy Greene. The Habs and the Crazy Canucks. Pierre Harvey and the Quebec Air Force.

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New Season, New Energy at 3,883 metres

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It’s July. Glacier training season is underway. From Stelvio to Les-2-alpes to Hintertux and many more glaciers and snowfields across Europe and North America, athletes of every age and ability are back to the snow.

The new “dynamo” of Alpine Canada: Marie-Hélène Thibeault, ACA’s newly minted Director of Philanthropy and Alumni Relations, asked if I might share some personal experiences from recent days on the snow with the Team. You’re going to get to know ‘M&H’. She’s very persuasive and loves to share her passion for ski racing, the new energy and spirit blooming inside our National Team programs. So how could I say no?

This was a double-duty trip for me: combining a series of meetings with International Ski Federation (FIS) officials and helping out with logistics to help Erik as he needed to get to the Fischer factory in Upper Austria and their boot specialist, who resides near Schladming.

Maintaining close contact with an important supporter is critical for success in World Cup. The relationship between athlete and the ski supplier is foundational – and best maintained through direct, personal contact. So it is very important to make the time to visit, meet and directly share information and feedback about how the product felt in the season past, where improvements might be made, learn about new ideas and developments and keep informed – so the pilot (the athlete) is current and making a constructive contribution to the brand team. The better an athlete is in sharing experience and feelings about flex, touch, feel and glide, the more productive the partnership.

IMG_1815And it’s not only skis. Boot fitting is critical. Speaking directly with the experts who build hundreds of boots each year for the world’s best, is invaluable. Taking the time to have boots personalized is essential. Harmonizing the skis, plates, bindings and boots … takes an investment of time. Setup is the key to success at the highest level, so working directly with the best in the industry sets the stage for performance.

IMG_1805So after two intense days with the Fischer Team, it was an nine-hour journey to Zermatt, including the transfer to the train and subsequent ride on the electric taxi to the hotel in automobile-free Zermatt.

The Matterhorn Glacier high above the iconic mountain village of Zermatt has been a regular summer stop for the past several years. Topping out at 3,883 metres, it’s the highest in Europe, with reliable snow and usually stable weather. And after a winter that the locals described as “extraordinary”, snow coverage is better than usual.

For the next ten days, the Canadian World Cup Tech Team will be training beneath the iconic Matterhorn. The athletes will focus on GS and SL training in this block, building on their first on-snow session held three weeks ago in Whistler and preparing for an August racing block in the Southern Hemisphere winter of New Zealand. This planned progression also include an autumn block back on the glaciers for final tune-up before the opening World Cup race in Soelden – now “only” 3 ½ months away.

IMG_4791When you walk out of the tunnel on the Klein Matterhorn, it seems little has changed from my last visit as an athlete in 1982. The spectacular gondola and tram ride to the ‘roof of Switzerland’ is the same. The t-bars spread across the glacier are the same. The training slopes are eerily similar. I can describe where the downhill training run snaked from 3,900m (yes, higher than the top terminal of the tram) to the toe of the glacier four kilometers away.

But that is where the similarities end.

This week the slopes are be buzzing with energy. Teams and athletes from Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, USA, Italy and many more  fill nearly all the available hill space with training lanes. Ski training in alpine, freestyle and snowboard is a roaring business.

To share some perspective: Les 2-Alpes in France has more than 80 training lanes for Teams. So it’s great business for the ski stations who crave guests who want to stay for more than the typical one or two days of your typical summer visitor.

National Teams of the entire FIS family are on the snow. In Zermatt, alpine training lanes cover the steeper upper slopes of both east and west sides of the glacier. An extensive snowboard and free-ski park sprawls across the lower slopes. Athletes converge every day from Zermatt and Cervinia. The hill chatters with a multitude of languages from athletes across the full spectrum of our sport.

The day starts early. Off the valley floor at 6:00am to be on-snow at 7:00. If the weather cooperates, the snow is rock-hard corduroy, a near-perfect match to the mid-winter race courses.IMG_2017

Led by Head Coach Dusan Grasic, the team supporting the men’s World Cup tech team includes Ryan Malmberg and Elias Jonsson working on-hill with Dusan;  Dr.Courtney Brown for medical and  start duties (and much more!); experienced ski technicians Jan Šauperl and Matteo Bortolotti.

They load early to get a head start setting up the training lane. Watching the clock is essential as the window for optimal training is narrow. As soon as the direct rays of the sun hit the snow it begins to soften. Training will wrap up usually by 11:00.

Working the training courses also includes continuous evaluation of equipment. So Jan and Matteo are on the hill to observe and listen, before heading down before the athletes to start working on gear for the next day.

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Canada’s Men’s WC Tech Team Erik Read, Simon Fournier, Morgan Megarry and Trevor Philp. Missing is Phil Brown who is recovering from  knee surgery.

Afternoons are for planned and informal training. On-snow camps offer a chance to move beyond the usual fitness program to use the local environment to mix up the training regimen. A location like Zermatt has incredible mountain biking and hikes in every direction from the town.IMG_1985

At altitude, weather is always a risk. We arrived to 5-6 cm. of powder snow on day one, a novelty for July 4th, but the new snow insulated the groomed track which did not freeze deeply. So training was useful but somewhat limited. Optimal conditions are clear evening skies were the temperatures will plunge on the glacier, resulting in rock-hard snow for the early morning.

And those early mornings are breathtaking. Stepping out onto the Matterhorn Glacier with the soaring peak of the Matterhorn (4,505 m.) jutting sharply into the sky to your right. In the distance, the Mont Blanc massif (4,808 m.) rises out of the haze. The Breithorn (4,164 m.) looms over your left shoulder and even at 7:00am there are climbers trudging to the peak up a well-worn trail. The vast snowfield surrounds you.

This is a moment to breathe …. on the roof of Switzerland, drinking in the grandeur of the Alps, to appreciate the door of adventure that alpine ski racing can open.

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Photos courtesy: CanuckOne

 

 

 

 

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An open letter to Mayor Nahed Nenshi regarding the 2026 Games Bid

Dear Mayor Nenshi:

We want you and your fellow Councillors to make an informed decision regarding 2026.

When it comes to hosting major events, which we define as World Cup events, Canadian sport has been responsible, accountable and must work within our means. Staging annual World Cup events means finite budgets, working with existing infrastructure and delivering events under the exacting eye of FIS Race Directors who hold all Organizers to very high standards. Every year, our region hosts multiple World Cup events – in alpine, biathlon, bobsleigh, cross country, freestyle, luges, skeleton, snowboard, ski cross and speed skating. The International Federations continue to return to our region because our Event Organizing Committees, run by volunteers supported by the National Sport Organizations, run exceptional events.

The sport community has been staging these major events from before the 1988 Games, until today. We have been working relentlessly, year after year, welcoming the world to Canada: at World Cup events in the Olympic Oval, Sliding Track of COP, in alpine skiing at Lake Louise, ski cross at Nakiska, on the freestyle and snowboard slopes of COP. We have become experts. Organizing Committees around the world welcome Canadians who help – most as volunteers – to stage other major events including World Championships, World Cups … and yes, the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The sport community is responsible. We focus on Legacy, because each year we offer the true Legacy of sport to all Calgarians, residents of southern Alberta, to all of Canada and to athletes around the world. We support these World Cup events and other training opportunities, which are the backbone of our Canadian Teams that performed so well in the 2018 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.

I would hope that you and City Council would want to hear directly from those who are the backbone of our sport community. To hear about the hard work, the exceptional volunteer culture, the tremendous energy and profound impact these annual World Cup events have on our current Canadian Team athletes, but more so to those who aspire to reach the international stage – those thousands of young athletes and their parents who dream of representing Canada.

Recognize the remarkable work of our volunteer community. Acknowledge the impact of our current champions. Inspire our next generation of athletes.

Yours sincerely,

Ken Read

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

________________________

Vice Chair, FIS Alpine Executive Board
Chair, FIS Coordination Group for Youth
Chair, FIS Alpine Youth subcommittee
Olympian, 1976, 1980

 

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#Davos2018 – Looking Into The Future Of Our Sport

The athletes have moved on. A select few turn their focus to PyeongChang and competing in the Olympic Winter Games. Most return to their respective Continental Cup series in the Far East, Europa Cup or Nor-Am Tour. There are NCAA Carnivals and Invitationals, along with catch-up time in class.

WJSC logo1For all, there will be the memories of a Junior World Championship experience – the thrill of competition, of testing limits amongst the best 16 to 21 year olds in the world.

While the FIS Alpine Junior World Championships are classed by the International Ski Federation as a ‘level 1’ competition on par with Continental Cup, they are unique. The only high-level competition – reserved for juniors. This is distinct from Continental Cup races where the best are trying to break through to the World Cup. The European Cup is dominated by seniors (21 or older). Nor-Am, Far East and the Southern Hemesphere Cups of South America and Australia/New Zealand have healthy contingents of elite seniors and juniors, but largely from each respective geographic region.

This makes the World Juniors a very special.

The Championship is an important step of the athlete development pathway. Athletes are still learning, gaining experience and preparing for “The Show”. Competition venues are targeted to be at a high level and organization is expected to be on par with a World Championship, but the technical challenge is tailored for juniors – not yet at the World Cup standard.

Second, the World Juniors are an important benchmark opportunity for National Ski Associations, to measure the progress of their athletes and how they measure up against the competition. There is a fairly high – but not absolute – correlation of success between the World Juniors and subsequent World Championship or Olympic podium results.

The core message: only a precious few burst onto the World Cup quickly from the World Junior ranks. The vast majority of athletes may take as long as ten more years to mature into stars. So to coaches, parents and National Ski Associations – be wise, be patient, be supportive and play the long game with your talent. You may be surprised how commitment and hard work may be the key ingredients for ultimate success.

As five-time Gold medalist Marco Odermatt told the FIS Newsflash, “I am extremely happy with my results here at Junior Worlds. It is still a big step to World Cup level, so there is lots of work ahead of me”.

fullsizeoutput_40fThere were high expectations for Team Canada’s juniors going into this season, particularly in the men’s speed events and to defend their World Championship title in the Alpine Team Event. The Team suffered an enormous setback in October, losing Ali Nullmeyer to a double ACL injury. Nullmeyer had won Silver in slalom and was a core member of the Gold medal crew that dominated the Alpine Team Event (ATE) in 2017.

The timing of the 2018 World Juniors posed a real challenge for National Teams who wanted to give Olympic experience to younger athletes, particularly those with speed or alpine combined skill. Travel, proper acclimatization to Korea and the start of official training (which began February 7th) overlapped the races in Davos. But if an athlete is ready for Olympic experience, the chance only comes every four years. So 2016 medalist Jack Crawford made the tough choice and accepted nomination to the 2018 Olympic Team, a good choice in for his long-term development.

This was a Team that is known for charging and the Championship started on a positive note in the men’s downhill, with Sam Mulligan (Grouse Mt. Tyee) taking silver – only .02 hundredths from Gold – and Jeffrey Read (Banff Alpine) .29 behind in 6th. Cameron Alexander (Whistler Mt./BC Ski Team) posted an excellent result with his 5th place in the men’s Super G, but the remainder of this competitive crew were amongst a large number that missed gates or had mishaps in a very tricky set. Similar mishaps beset the Canadian Team in the Alpine Combined. They ran up against a Swiss Team that had tremendous experience with the track.

Two youngsters, born in 1999, joined the Team for the technical events: Declan McCormack (Osler Bluff/Ontario Ski Team) and Liam Wallace (Sunshine/Alberta Ski Team). For both, this was their first opportunity to race in Europe, a constructive, positive eye-opener, as these two will be the anchors of Canada’s future World Junior Teams.

Our ladies Team was small with the absence of Nullmeyer and election of Amelia Smart (Team Panorama/Denver) and Cassidy Gray (Team Panorama) to defer participation this year. The attending trio of Stefanie Fleckenstein (Whistler Mt.), Marina Vilanova (Tremblant) and Stephanie Currie (Osler Bluff/Dartmouth) gained good experience with multiple top-20 results. Nullmeyer, Smart and Gray are all juniors next year and eligible for the 2019 Team.

So results were certainly not what the Team expected. But over the past four years the 1996 to 1998 cohort has a solid record: 23 top ten results, including eight medals. They are competitive in all events, so can move on from junior competition knowing they are in the mix as they mature and prepare for the highest level – aiming for Olympic, World Championship and World Cup competition. They also have a wealth of experience gained in the 2017 World Juniors at Åre, Sweden, which will hosts FIS Alpine World Ski Championships next winter.

The World Juniors are a crystal ball into the future of our sport. This is the future of ski racing, with exciting competitions, large contingents of parents and friends on-hand to cheer on the Teams. We’ve seen glimpses of future greatness, tremendous skill, emotion, passion, tears and cheers. There is much to be positive about – in Canada and around the world – with this snapshot of our best juniors. Fifteen nations placed athletes in the top-10. Eleven nations won medals. We need to be smart and bold with managing speed events in the future, especially for ladies, but the tech events are robust. The skill level is high throughout the field. The future is indeed, bright.

The World Juniors offer a chance to network with the leaders of youth programs from around the world. It is an incredible opportunity to observe the commitment made to youth development, to discuss their goals and hear of their challenges. Perhaps best of all is the privilege of meeting future champions before they step up to an international podium.

Thank you, Davos, for this contribution to our sport, to our athletes.

Now, we look forward to the 38th edition of the FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championships in Val di Fassa, located in the beautiful Dolomites of the province of Trentino, from February 18th to 27th, 2019.

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