Young, burgeoning ski jumpers from the Sea to Sky corridor got a chance to meet top Canadian athletes in the sport during the Aviva Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined National Championships at Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) last weekend.
Whistlerite Tom Thompson, who was volunteering as the event's chief of landing, brought some of the kids he was coaching as part of the Flight 2020 camps to meet the world-class athletes. "We want the kids to have fun, and today they all get to meet the Olympic athletes that represented Canada," he said. "We're concentrating on boys and girls, usually eight to12-year-olds, for now and we hope to get kids that will continue with the sport later on."
The camps are a new initiative by Whistler Sports Legacies, the organization that runs WOP, to help recruit more young, local athletes to the sport. In January, WOP was appointed a joint national training centre for ski jump and Nordic combined.
"We're building towards and shooting for these kids to compete in 2022," Thompson said. "Next season we'll be getting new jumps that we're building and it's exciting for the sport to be rebounding, especially exciting for me."
Thompson, who also coached the forerunners in Sochi, has high hopes for the kids in his program and sees potential in them to change the ski jumping landscape to include more Whistlerites in the next couple of years.
"Some of these boys and girls are very good from what I can see as a coach," he said. "I'm expecting in the next two years we can go to competition in Calgary from some of our kids here and just help build up the program. You never know though, in four years, some of these kids might even get on the normal hill."
Meanwhile, Thompson also pulled double duty braving rainy conditions with other volunteers and athletes during the weekend competitions. Though Whistler had no representation on the course, there were more than a few locals who helped ensure the event went off smoothly for everyone.
"We've had to deal adverse conditions all weekend," Thompson said.
"We had a delay today (Saturday) because of too much snow resulting in sticky conditions."
Thompson was responsible for managing the conditions for the event so that all the athletes had a fair field of competition and safety. He and numerous other volunteers helped to make the rainy weekend a success.
"Most of us are all ex-athletes and have all worked together for the past 20 - 30 years and the group of local volunteers we have from here locally have been great. It's all teamwork and it's a big job, but it all ran very smoothly."
On the normal hill and large hill, the Canadian women swept the podium with Atsuko Tanaka taking first place, Taylor Henrich and Jasmine Spandj going second and third respectively in both events.
In the men's side, Canadians Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes finished in second place on the normal and sixth in the large, while Matthew Rowley was third in the normal and fourth in the large.
For full results visit callaghanwintersportsclub.ca.