Torino 2006: Racer ready?

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ReadThere has been a lot of talk about Canada’s prospects in Torino, especially on the heels of the Athens Summer Games. The past two years have seen a new spirit of leadership coming from the National Sport Organizations (NSO), a heightened priority by the NSO and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) to seamlessly integrate Olympic planning and new funding from sponsors, the Government of Canada and the COC.

Canada’s sport leaders have ambitiously staked out aggressive objectives that believe Canada can be ranked No. 3 in Torino. And 2006 is to be a launching pad for the ambitious goal to be No. 1 in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games by winning more than 35 medals and No. 3 in the Paralympic Winter Games. Of these, alpine skiing is on the hook for at least three medals in the Olympics and seven in the Paralympics.

Before anyone suggests this is un- Canadian, think back to Salt Lake City. Did Wayne Gretzky wanted silver in Salt Lake City? Do you think he expects anything less than gold from his team in Torino? And do the women’s hockey team, curling teams, speed skaters and freestyle skiers think differently? Speed, colour, bravado—all themes that are building the “Canada brand.”

It’s truly amazing how setting a goal, developing a vision and establishing a mindset for success can quickly transform a sport. Look at swimming. Remember the debacle of Athens—a program that by its own admission had drifted for years and had publicly stated its expectations for results were virtually non-existent? Yet one year later, at the 2005 World Aquatic Championships, Swimming Canada came away with a best-ever performance.

The second part of this investment is toward the next generation—the National Development Group—to provide deeper support through highly supervised physical training programs, more support staff, additional ski service and a larger number of athletes to compete for team spots. This group certainly will be a key part of Team 2010 since they’ll be between the ages of 22-27. It’s only a matter of patience, leadership and experience until they join the core team on the World Cup.

The COC and all the winter sports have raised the bar to ensure that all work together in Torino.This close collaboration started two years ago with the Torino “Excellence” Series, where previous Olympians met with current and future Olympians to give insight and inspiration for the 2006 Games. Thomas Grandi attributed his success last winter to the inspiration he gained from a speech by 1992 Olympic gold medallist Mark Tewksbury.

Winning has so many facets. Setting goals and establishing a vision of where we want to go provides the road map. Securing the right coaches and giving them the tools to do the job is crucial. All this comes down to a rehearsal at Lake Louise in November. With the attention of the world focused on the World Cup races of the Olympic winter, this will be our opportunity to prepare our team for the ? shbowl of Torino, testing our plans to manage the competitive environment and ? nding the balance point between business, personal needs and performance.

Ken Read
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