Many of the halfpipe team and I have been competing for a long time, a lot of our riders have been competing for more than a decade and yet they sit in the middle of the pack when it comes to world ranking lists.
There are many factors to think about when asking “why” to this predicament. First, the quality of the fields has increased significantly over the last couple Olympic cycles. Another, the rider has to choose between two circuits contests to compete in, which leaves the rider with hard decisions and a hard to swallow credit card bill. They then have to find work whenever they can to cope with their expenses. Also, the amount of time which the athlete gets to train verses compete may be the biggest factor.
Our Canadian team are pushed to compete during the whole Olympic cycle, leaving little time to train and rebuild.
Choosing training over competing a hard choice for a rider to make in situation where funding doesn’t support this decision; choosing to take a step back with the hopes of leaping forward. Our system has become results driven, especially since 2010 when Own the Podium came into play. Yes, they got us on the podium, but at what cost to the development and sustainability of sport?
I know firsthand the hardships that come with taking time off from the circuit to train. Not being a part of a nationally recognized high performance program with snowboarding’s National Sports Organization and not competing meant that I did not qualify for any support or grants from Canada. For an entire Olympic cycle I fundraised and sought corporate and private sponsors, like Sony Canada, to help me get to my dream. I used hard work, determination and a bit of luck to get me there. Not everyone has this chance that I had.
There is ample evidence that an athlete doesn’t improve going from contest to contest with little support. Like all things that have high yield, they need to be nurtured and sustained, not deserted when things get tough.
Imagine what our talented halfpipe team could do with mainly training camps during the first two years of the Olympic cycle and only worrying about quotas and results going into the qualifying year. Training camps would be open to any recognized provincial athlete who has shown proof of commitment and talent. I believe the yield would be high and Canada would be back in the top ten of the world ranking lists again with more than one miracle athlete.
You can’t own the podium all the time, at some point you have to build it before you own it.