Crosby not only one with brain pain

ALISON KORN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

TORONTO - Concussions are not a problem just for hockey players, as Olympic speed skater Kristina Groves confirmed this week that she’ll miss the rest of the 2010-11 season due to a head injury.

Groves, who has four Olympic medals, had continued to skate after the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, but has now acknowledged that perhaps what she really needed was time off. The concussion, sustained in a fall in November in a World Cup race in Berlin, has forced Groves to slow down.

“Although it is disappointing to be done for the season, this injury came at a time when I knew I needed to take a break, so in a sense, it was good timing,” said an optimistic Groves. “Even in some ways, I feel this is a blessing in disguise. I feel confident that I’ll be back 100% soon. I look forward to having this time away from skating to recover from the injury, but also to recover from the last several years of intense training and focus leading up to the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.”

How’s that for a positive attitude? Admirable.

Groves has missed nine weeks of training while recovering in Calgary. She has improved significantly in recent weeks and has begun doing some light exercise. Groves, 34, is also going to benefit from having more time for reflection on her future plans.

Athletes calling for increased stipends

AthletesCAN, the association of national team athletes, is calling on the federal government to increase its Athlete Assistance Program budget and athlete funding levels by 20% to reflect the Bank of Canada consumer price index.

As it is, senior national team athletes receive $1,500 a month, while development athletes receive $900 a month, all tax free. They’re also eligible to get their post-secondary tuition covered at a Canadian school. That’s quite a deal.

Problem is, these allowances have not been increased since 2004, while sport expenses have.

“At the very least, we feel that the stipends should reflect the cost of inflation, the cost of living,” said AthletesCAN executive director Jasmine Northcott. “While there has been an increase to sport in general from funding from Own The Podium and other avenues, none of it has been directly directed to the athletes. So the amount of money that an athlete is given in their pocket hasn’t changed since 2004.”

The recommendation is for the monthly stipends to increase from $1,500 to $1,800 per month for senior level athletes and to increase from $900 to $1,080 per month for development athletes.

Can’t argue with that, and athletes have been lobbying their MPs. It’s probably too soon to see any changes included in the federal budget coming in February, but perhaps the year after.

Rick Say has much to say

Olympic swimmer Rick Say is a great chatterbox and always interesting, too. Lately he’s received some attention for coaching Olympic medallist triathlete Simon Whitfield and his training group of five guys, helping them improve their freestyle swimming technique. How exactly? Here’s how he described it to me:

“Basically for a lot of them, the change was the feeling of water on their arms,” said Say. “I think they have to hold water in their arms. I’m trying to teach them to use bigger paddles by using their forearms, not just their hands ... I’ve been teaching them to hold water more with bigger paddles over a longer range of motion, so using their forearms a lot more, trying to swim with their forearms as well as their hands.”

Say retired from swimming last summer after three Olympic Games and has been in demand as a coach at all levels ever since. He’s the only Canadian to have won nationals in every freestyle distance from 50 metres to 1,500 metres, which boggles the mind. Glad he’s getting the chance to share all he learned.

One athlete’s debut, another one’s swan song ... moguls Olympic medallist Jennifer Heil, 27, has announced she will retire at the end of the season. This weekend's World Cup in Calgary will be Heil's last competition on Canadian soil, with the World Freestyle Championships coming up in Deer Valley, Utah from Jan. 30 to Feb. 7 ... Meanwhile, young Erik Read made his World Cup debut in Schladming, Austria on Tuesday, more than 30 years after his father stood atop the podium there. The 19-year-old son of Crazy Canuck Ken Read didn't finish the run that his dad won in 1978.

Canada is doing well at the 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) athletics worlds in Christchurch, New Zealand. So far, the Canadian team has four medals, with Diane Roy winning a bronze medal Tuesday in the T54 wheelchair classification 800-metres, clocking 1 minute 52.88 seconds. Opening ceremony flag bearer Michelle Stilwell won two gold medals in the T52 100 and 200-metres and Brent Lakatos has a bronze in the T53 100-metres. Competition continues until Jan. 30.


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