The Whistler Sliding Centre is officially a national training centre for sliding sport in Canada, as a result of a new partnership finalized between Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, the Canadian Luge Association and Whistler Sport Legacies, which operates the track. The announcement was made as Whistler hosted a World Cup event for luge.
Under the memorandum of understanding, the track agrees to comply with national training centre guidelines and support their goal of increasing capacity in the sport and competitiveness on the world stage.
“The sliding sports recognize the importance of contributing to the Olympic and Paralympic medal count, and we believe our athletes deserve the opportunity to have access to all of the much-needed resources at home to compete and win against the world’s best,” said Don Wilson, CEO of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton.
Winsport, formerly the Calgary Olympic Development Association, will continue to run their track and national training centre at Canada Olympic Park.
Chris Dornan, national spokesperson for both luge and bobsleigh/skeleton, said that no athletes or programs are relocating to Whistler as a result.
“We do not anticipate athletes relocating from Calgary to Whistler, but this designation will hopefully continue to produce a greater number of high-performance athletes from Western Canada.,” he said.
Dornan added that a second training track was needed by the athletes.
“Both are designated as NTC’s (national training centres) because the need for two technically different tracks is required for Canadian athletes to compete with the world’s best,” he said. “We utilize the benefits and facilities of Winsport and (Whistler Sport Legacies), as well as the Calgary and Whistler Canadian Sport Institute facilities.” He added that it’s common for sports to have more than one national training centre.
“The sliding sport recognize the importance of contributing to the Olympic and Paralympic medal count, and we believe our athletes deserve the opportunity to have access to all of the much-needed resources at home to compete and win against the world’s best,” said Wilson. “Having access to a national training centre on the west coast is critical to putting Canada’s sliding sports on the international podium, and in turn growing the sport well into the future.”
The sliding sports factor significantly into Canada’s Olympic plans, with bobsleigh athletes winning three medals in the 2010 Games, skeleton athletes winning a medal — and coming close to two — and the national luge team now performing at a podium level.
The Whistler track is under pressure to recover more of its $2 million in annual operating costs, and two years ago launched a public sliding program that gives people the chance to try skeleton and bobsleigh. Roger Soane, president and CEO of WSL, said he doesn’t expect the new national designation to affect that program.
“We are a sport organization first and foremost, so the public bobsleigh and skeleton programs have always been scheduled around the training times that athletes require,” he explained. “Most high performance training occurs early season (October) and late (March) when the demand for public programs is less.”
The WSL will not get any additional funding from the partners to operate the track, but with national training centre status they are fulfilling the requirements of the Games Operating Trust, a $110 million trust fund established to support the 2010 Olympic legacies.