Whistler will soon become the hub for B.C.’s high-performance Nordic ski athletes, following Whistler Sport Legacies’ (WSL) announcement last week of its intent to establish the Whistler Nordic Development Centre.
The centre, which developed as a result of WSL’s partnership with Biathlon BC, aims to fill some of the gaps high-performance athletes throughout the province often experience, such as experienced coaching and adequate funding, all centralized in one of the world’s best communities for high-level athletic development.
WSL, the non-profit organization responsible for maintaining Whistler Olympic Park, the Whistler Sliding Centre and the Whistler Athletes’ Centre, said it’s an ideal host for the program. “Number one, we have a fantastic venue,” said Lucinda Jagger, vice president of sport for WSL. “Number two, Whistler is a high-performance environment and it has been for a number of years.”
The idea for the development centre evolved after the Olympic legacy venue partnered with Sea to Sky Nordic to bring in a high-level coach, Etienne Letondeur — who will serve as the head coach of WSL’s biathlon program — which sparked the interest of the province’s Nordic sport organizations. The new program will build upon the biathlon program’s success, and plans to cater to the full range of Nordic events by spring 2017.
“It was a prime opportunity to have the coach in place to support this program. With the clubs being not-for-profit, they always struggle with being able to secure high level coaching on a year-round basis,” said Jagger. “Coming into the 2010 Olympics, a lot of the programs were really well funded… but post 2010, there was a reallocation of the funding.”
“When athletes get to this stage of development … it’s really expensive,” Jagger added, quoting a cost of $25,000 to $40,000 per athlete each year.
These funds are required to cover training and travel, among other costs. Jagger said these financial struggles are often occurring at a critical stage in athletes’ development.
The centralized, year-round program is targeted towards athletes 18 and up who are pursuing a spot on the national team. Participating athletes will relocate to Whistler, where they’ll spend five days a week training under WSL staff and coaches.
Though the program is currently reserved for B.C. athletes only, Jagger said she hopes it can eventually evolve to include national, or even international, athletes.
The centre will be based at Whistler Olympic Park, which is already equipped with Nordic facilities, while the Whistler Athletes’ Centre will provide accommodations for athletes and facilitate the program’s dryland training.
Funding for the program will follow a leveraged investment model, and will come from WSL’s partners and provincial sport organizations.
“Ideally the one big thing that we’re missing going forward would be a team van, and from an infrastructure perspective, we’re starting to round that out,” Jagger said. “Athlete scholarships will be what we’ll need moving forward.”
The creation of the Nordic Development Centre, “adds variety in how we pursue sport,” said Jagger, adding that WSL’s high-performance projects and facilities also serve as a reminder to the community that these Olympic legacies are beneficial to both competition and recreation in the area.
“We’re really, really excited. This is an initial step for creating a centre of excellence,” said Jagger. “It’s just another piece of what