COC makes push to bolster summer programs

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

With the disappointment of the Athens Summer Olympics still foremost in people's minds, the Canadian Olympic Committee officially rolls out their Road to Excellence high-performance plan today, with the objective of seeing more Canadians on Summer Olympic and Paralympic medal podiums in the years ahead.

COC boss Chris Rudge said yesterday this program is more a reflection of a change in mindset since Canada's successful 24-medal performance at the Turin Winter Olympics in February -- that there's nothing wrong with winning.

That's the approach of Own the Podium, a sports technical program and collaborative effort involving Canada's winter sports stakeholders designed to guide Canada to the top of the medal standings at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, and to place in the top three at the 2010 Paralympic Games.

Focusing money and high performance programming into targeted areas, co-ordinating national leadership, getting national sports organizations, Canadian Sport Centres, government and other stakeholders to row in the same direction -- all with the goal of achieving medal success -- will require significant resources.

The recent federal budget saw no increase in Sport Canada's annual budget, currently at $147 million, but Rudge says he has had meetings with Minister for Sport Michael Chong and he's getting the sense that will change. The Road to Excellence report, a blueprint at this stage, calls for additional funding of $88 million a year for summer sports, especially for coaching, from federal and provincial government levels, the COC, the Canadian Paralympic Committee, as well as from corporate Canada.

"You eat an elephant one bite at a time," Rudge said.

Road to Excellence looks for Canada to finish in the top 15 (18-20 medals) at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, then break the top 10-12 (24-30 medals) in London in 2012.

Kayaker Adam van Koeverden, back training in Oakville after a multiple gold-medal performance recently at a International Canoe Federation World Cup event in Germany, says he's all in favour of more cash. But he would like to know exactly where those funds are going.

"The only thing I would question is how are you spending it?" he said. "Are more people just going to be working in the Canadian sport system, or are more athletes going to have more opportunities to perform at their best? Are more coaches going to be able to quit their full-time and part-time jobs so they can support their families?"


Videos

Photos