SPORTS

Canadian skaters not represented on team going to Youth Olympics in Austria

01/04/2012 04:43 EST | Updated 03/05/2012 05:12 EST
KAMLOOPS, B.C. - When B.C. curler Corryn Brown carries the Canadian flag for the first time ever Youth Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, there won't be any skaters walking behind her.

The country's two national skating federations have decided not to send any athletes.

About 1,100 athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 from more than 60 countries will compete in the same sports represented at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Chef de mission Beckie Scott says the 51 athletes Canada is sending will compete in everything except skating events at the Games, which begin Jan. 13.

While Canadian Olympic officials didn't immediately have an explanation, a source later confirmed it was the decision of the federations not to participate, citing conflicts with existing programming.

"There were some long-term athlete development concerns."

Mike Slipchuk of Skate Canada says the biggest problem with his organization was the timing. The event overlaps the Canadian nationals that start Jan. 16 in Moncton, N.B.

"We support the whole concept of the Youth Olympics and we look forward to being a part of it," said the federation's high-performance director. "It's just unfortunate that due to timing we just weren't able to do it this year."

Speed Skating Canada did not immediately offer comment.

For those who are going, there is plenty of excitement.

"It will be really cool representing my country as well as my city," Brown said after her selection was confirmed Wednesday. "It will be definitely a different experience than just representing my province."

Brown will be throwing third stones for the mixed team at the Games, which will be skipped by Thomas Scoffin of Whitehorse. Winnipeg's Derek Oryniak will be the second while Emily Gray of O’Leary, P.E.I., is lead.

The 16-year-old Brown has been curling for 12 years. She skipped B.C. to gold at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax in 2010 and the B.C. High School Curling Championship in both 2010 and 2011.

The others also bring a lot of curling experience to the squad.

Scoffin has skipped the Yukon entry at every junior national since 2007 and has won two silver medals and gold at the Arctic Winter Games.

Oryniak is a Manitoba Junior Curling Tour event champion and helped the province win bronze at the Canada Winter Games.

Gray was the 2009 15-and-under P.E.I. provincial champion, 2009 15-and-under provincial mixed champion, 2011 junior mixed runner-up and 2011 17-and-under provincial champ.

There may be pressure on the young athletes at these Games as Canada traditionally excels in winter sports. The first summer Games were held in 2010 in Singapore and Canada collected 12 medals to finish 13th in the overall standings.

But Scott, an Olympic gold-medal winning cross-country skier, says they hope to make it a rewarding experience in a variety of ways.

"For all of these athletes or most of them it's going to be their first time actually even participating in an international event," she said. "So there's going to be a lot of excitement and, I hope, not too much anxiety around that.

"Yes, it is an important international competition and opportunity to meet the best in the world but it's also an opportunity to take part in what they've added . . . which is the culture and education program."

MORE:cpSports