Canada's Olympic program considered push in winter sports

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Own the Podium currently invests more in summer sports

Those behind Canada’s Own the Podium program have discussed whether more funding should be put toward winning medals at the Winter Olympics at the expense of funding for Summer Olympic athletes, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

Notes taken during a board meeting last November reveal Own the Podium officials discussed whether focusing on athletes participating in the Winter Games would provide a better return on investment.

“A key question was if Canada would be No. 1 in winter (both gold and total) at the expense of summer, would we do this,” the notes read.

Own the Podium CEO Anne Merklinger acknowledges such a discussion did take place.

“It is our job as a board and senior management team in the organization to make sure we continue to ask the tough questions of ourselves,” Merklinger said.

“After a good, healthy discussion … it was reinforced we need to do exactly what we are doing right now and that is to help more Canadian athletes win more medals and in a variety of contexts.”

According to the notes, officials also considered polling Canadians. Three questions were drafted:

  • Is it important to Canadians that we are successful in both winter and summer sports?
  • Are there some sports in which success is more important than others?
  • Is it important to Canadians that we are successful in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games?

Podium Canada, more commonly known as Own the Podium, funds programs that provide Canadian athletes with coaching, training and medical support in order to help them win medals at the Olympic Games.

Currently, the program is investing more in athletes participating in the Summer Games, spending $33.8 million for the 2013-14 summer sport season.

Alternatively, for the 2013-14 winter sport season, Own the Podium has invested $23.8 million.

Despite the larger investment, Canada won 18 medals, including just one gold medal, during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Canada ranked 13th in overall medals.

In contrast, during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada won 26 medals, including 14 gold medals, placing third overall in the medal count.

Merklinger says Own the Podium has made adjustments based on results, including dropping support for sports such as field hockey.

There are also plans to review how Canadian athletes perform during the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi next year.

Source

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