Capital launches athletes' fund challenge

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

Phil Marsh hopes it's merely a first step.

In rather short order, the regional manager for The Running Room has put together a fundraising event to help Canadian amateur athletes -- an idea he hopes can catch on from coast to coast.

"My hope next year is to see a race everywhere we have a Running Room store," said Marsh.

"It would be great to see 50 or 60 of these races."

Ottawa is the launching point. Next weekend, The Running Room's 901 Bank St. store will be headquarters for a series of races which wind down Colonel By Drive on Sunday morning.

It's the capital's chance to contribute to the Support Our Canadian Athletes Challenge, which begins tomorrow and runs through Aug. 30. The fundraising blitz assists the See You In Torino campaign, which supports Canadian amateur athletes training for next year's Winter Olympics in Italy.

Campaign founder Jane Roos' hope is to get "2006 great Canadians" to raise $1,500 in pledges for the fund -- the dollar figure matches the amount of government funding an elite amateur athlete receives each month.

If the challenge is successful, that's more than $3 million -- enough to take care of See You In Torino's needs, and get a head start on the See You In Beijing campaign for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Some 78 Torino-bound athletes have just been approved for $6,000 grants from the fund, with more to come in the fall.

"We want to change sport," said Roos, an Ottawa native. "If all Canadians can embrace this (challenge), it would be phenomenal."

The Ottawa event marks the campaign's first-ever fundraising run. It includes a 10K race, 5K race and walk, and a free 1K run for kids.

Participants can register at www.runningroom.com. Pledges are also accepted there (Roos is running the 10K).

Entry fees are $25 for adults and $15 for youths (under 16).

Participants also receive an 'Eh Team' T-shirt, with some Canadian Olympians on hand next Saturday at The Running Room store to autograph them.

Marsh hopes the event helps "raise the exposure of what the 'See You In' campaign is all about."

"Jane is so passionate about this. It's hard not to pick up on that (and want to help)."

AROUND THE AMATEUR SCENE: Ottawa's Michelle Buckingham, a two-time Olympian, made a strong impression at the European Judo Union B tournament last weekend in Braunschweig, Germany. Buckingham won the silver medal in the Under-57 kg category, with her semi-final win over reigning Olympic champ Yvonne Bonisch of Germany the major highlight. It was just the warmup she needed for next month's world championships in Cairo ... Cornwall's Marie-Josee Cardinal won a pair of gold medals, in women's slalom and jump, at the Canadian water skiing championships on Lake Shirley in Manitoba yesterday. "The slalom was a bit of a surprise for me," said Cardinal, 19, a health sciences student at the University of Ottawa.

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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