TORONTO - With the Canada Games on right now in Halifax, this is a great time to be a Canadian provincial-level athlete, but ironically, a terrible time to be among the world’s best deaf athletes.
That’s because the 2011 Winter Deaflympics – an Olympics for athletes with a hearing impairment – were supposed to start in Slovakia this week, but were inexplicably cancelled last Friday, leaving hundreds of international competitors in shock. That’s putting it mildly.
With the 62 members of the Canadian delegation all now back home, the Canadian Deaf Sports Association is mired in the grim task of tallying its financial losses. It will be sending the bill to the Slovakian host organizing committee.
“Everything’s fresh, we just got home yesterday,” the association’s executive director, Kim Rizzi, said. “We’re hoping for some fast action. Nobody’s saying too much. All I know is we should be setting up our Games operating centre today, we should be having our technical meetings, we should be in full fledged training and getting ready for what every kid dreams of, going to the Olympics. So it’s really bad.”
Wednesday was supposed to mean a big Canada-U.S. hockey game. The Canadian hockey players arrived in Vienna last week for a training camp. In all, 41 Canadian athletes had been selected to represent Canada in hockey, curling, alpine skiing and snowboarding.
“I am very upset as we just returned home from Austria,” said hockey’s executive team director Roy Hysen. “Never in the history of the Summer and Winter Deaflympics have the Games been cancelled.”
The final tally isn’t in yet, but Rizzi estimated the Canadian team is out hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So how could this happen? There were never any test events and Rizzi figures the organizing committee wasn’t held to any regulatory process. Venue agreements were apparently never in place.
The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf has filed a criminal complaint against the Slovakian Deaflympics Organizing Committee and its president, Jaromir Ruda. The criminal complaint demands reimbursement of the funds that were transferred to the Slovakian Deaflympics Organizing Committee from national deaf sports federations to cover hotel accommodations and other expenses.
Rizzi said the impact of the scandal on deaf sports will be disastrous.
“We all want answers, and a clear and precise plan on how Canadians will be reimbursed for the colossal amount of resources spent to prepare and to get here,” Rizzi said. “We have been preparing for this event for many years and I am sure I could speak for everyone involved. We are angry and so sad for our national team members.”
Perhaps the only positive here is that Vancouver is booked to host the next edition of the Winter Deaflympics in 2015.
Chance to skate with top women’s hockey players
The Canadian Women’s Hockey League – the world’s top women’s hockey league, by the way – is offering autographs and a Skate with the Champions opportunity after the Toronto vs. Montreal game on Sat. Feb. 19 at Mastercard Centre, 400 Kipling Ave. For a donation of $5, adults and children can take to the ice immediately after the game and skate with the athletes, who include several Olympic gold medallists. It’s a fundraiser for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. The league’s website is wwww.cwhl.ca.
COC seeking applicants for Olympic Academy
The Canadian Olympic Committee is looking to send two Canadians between the ages of 20-35 to Olympia, Greece to experience the annual Young Participants Session at the International Olympic Academy. This year, interested Canadians must enter through an online application that illustrates their sport leadership, passion for the Olympic Movement and their online social influence. The session will take place from June 25 to July 9, 2011. Apply here: http://www.formstack.com/forms/COT-2011IOA
Bantam Girls Returning to Cuba
For the second year in a row, a group of top Bantam-aged girls will be heading to Cuba for not only a baseball experience, but a cultural and learning experience as well. The trip will run from Feb. 20 to 27 and will see 26 girls along with the coaching staff of the women’s national team head to the baseball hotbed.
The Cuba trip serves as an opportunity for players to be evaluated by national team coaches. A typical day will see the team practice, play a game against a local Cuban team and also experience something cultural, such as touring historic Old Havana and visiting an orphanage to do some humanitarian work.