Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) is a busy venue this week, hosting an Olympic team training camp for Canadian ski jumpers after being named a joint National Training Centre with Canada Olympic Park (COP) in Calgary.
“Our home away from home until now has been Park City, Utah, so it allows us to train in our home country,” said Curtis Lyon, high performance director of Ski Jumping Canada. “The jumps in Whistler were built for the 2010 Olympics, so it's one of the newer facilities in the world that gives us the same opportunities that the Europeans have — to jump on a couple of different hills.”
The Callaghan's low elevation and favourable weather patterns were contributing factors to WOP becoming an official national training facility.
“It's built in a spot where ski jumps are supposed to be built, not in a foothill in the mountains where the winds are consistently strong,” said Lyon.
This week, the top Canadian ski jumping athletes will be training at WOP, including Atsuko Tanaka, Taylor Henrich and Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes, as well as a squad from the U.S. men's team. Spectators are welcome and can expect jumps of up to 140 metres.
The appointment coincides with Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) announcing the launch of “Flight 2022,” a ski jumping program designed to introduce children to the sport. Two more ski jumps, 20 and 40 metres in size, will be constructed adjacent to the current 60- and 90-metre jumps during the summer of 2014. The new jumps will serve as an intermediate progression for younger ski jumpers as they gain skills and confidence and their coaches deem them ready to try larger amplitude jumps.
“(WSL's) commitment to build two smaller jumps basically adds another club, another opportunity to recruit young kids in this country,” said Lyon. “For a sport this small, that's huge. You're essentially doubling the size of the sport in Canada.”
Building the Nordic sports in the Sea to Sky Corridor is high on the agenda for WSL, which is hoping that the older and more traditional disciplines of skiing will catch on with younger generations.
“It's the start of a junior program in the Sea to Sky Corridor so we can start to develop the athletes locally,” said Roger Soane, CEO of Whistler Sport Legacies. “If you look at the success we've had at the sliding centre, in four years from now you will see a couple of Whistler athletes that have been developed on this track go to the Olympics. We want the same thing out of the Nordic sports developed at WOP.”
By inviting schools from the Sea to Sky Corridor to WOP and letting the kids try the sport for themselves, Soane hopes that a handful of those kids will want to pursue ski jumping further.
“My goal for this organization is to give these kids the opportunity to try,” said Soane. “If you can't introduce a child to sport, they will never want to do it. There needs to be a foundation, the junior program is normally held up by clubs and (parents). If we can do anything to help, that's also a part of the legacy.”
WSL will be holding ski-jump camps for children ages eight to 12 on small snow bumps on the weekends of March 1 and 2 and March 8 and 9. For more information go to www.whistlerolympicpark.com.