SPORTS

Funds from Canadian Olympic groups and new network designed to enhance training

01/07/2015 07:41 EST | Updated 03/09/2015 05:59 EDT
RICHMOND, B.C. - Canadian athletes seeking Olympic and Paralympic gold in 2016 are looking forward to training in better conditions after a $3-million funding boost announced Wednesday.

The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Olympic Foundation are investing the money, along with an additional unspecified amount of funds from the Canadian Paralympic Committee, in the newly branded Canadian Sport Institute Network. The investment is intended to provide "cutting-edge equipment," hire staff and enhance daily training for multi-sport athletes. The deal includes seven local, provincial and regional high-performance sport institutes whose facilities are being brought under one umbrella within the network.

"It has taken a minimum of three years and a lot of work to get here, but we never gave up," said COC chairman Marcel Aubut during a news conference at the Richmond Olympic Oval. "We were so convinced that it was the right thing to do."

The COC and Olympic foundation will provide $3 million in direct funding to the national institute network for the period covering 2014 to 2016 to enable it to provide world-class facilities to athletes. In addition to helping current and aspiring Olympians and Paralympians, the funding and newly named network aim to assist Canadians competing in the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games in Toronto.

Aubut expects more funding to be provided in the future to the institute network, which includes facilities in Montreal, Calgary, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Atlantic Canada and the Pacific region. He said the rebranding as a network will create a larger team and family-like atmosphere for athletes, enabling them to see that they can all work together to bring Canada more Olympic and Paralympic medals.

"This is (about) Olympics, this is excellent, this is the top of the world," said Aubut in an interview. "This is (about) building the athletes to beat the best in the world."

Athletes said the funding and new network will make their training more comfortable at home and away because they can access more equipment and institute facilities across the country.

During and after the news conference, athletes offered compelling stories on difficulties that they have endured while training. Josh Vander Vies, who won a 2012 Paralympic bronze medal in doubles boccia said he won't have to worry about finding a gym or having to using his "limited budget" on other training needs.

"Definitely, this will change my world, because leading up to London, I did most of my training out of my carport," said weightlifter Christine Girard, a two-time Olympian who won bronze in 2012, adding she will benefit from more access to resources and the world's best athletes.

John Moonlight of the Canadian Sevens men's rugby team said the funding will help his Victoria-area-based team benefit from a nutrionist and sport psychologist as it attempts to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. He will also be able to use facilities in Ontario when he is at home in Pickering.

"(The network) sets a standard and a goal that people look at," said Moonlight. "Growing up as a young kid, you always dream of just making the Olympics. Now, you have this centre being referred to as an Olympic training centre. It gives you that extra goal. You actually want to be able to work to train in that high-performance area."

Retired Olympic rower Darcy Marquardt, a three-time Olympian who won silver in London, said the funding and institute network will benefit athletes who are married and trying to train together at the same time. Marquardt said she and her husband, retired Olympic swimmer Richard Hortness, who are expecting their first child later this month, gained from the institutes' advice on how to prepare each other psychologically for London.

"Limited resources are everywhere, but when you have two athletes living together, in a lot of cases, it's low-low income family," said Hortness, adding the funding and facility access will make it much easier for athletes to "live and survive."

Canadian Paralympic Committee CEO Karen O'Neill said the leadership and partnerships behind the funding and institute network are helping Canada become a world leader in both Olympic and Paralympic sport.

"Today, we're all united in the work of continuing to build a powerful and connected sport system - from playground to podium," said O'Neill.

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