Ski jumps saved ... for now

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:07 AM ET

Instead of only running up hills in Calgary this summer, Stefan Read will also go down them.

And by the means he's used to -- flying through the air.

"Sounds good to me," Read said. "That's way better than running up them."

Read and the rest of the country's ski jumpers and nordic combined competitors received good news yesterday when the Calgary Olympic Development Association announced it will spend $190,000 to upgrade the jumps at Canada Olympic Park and keep them up and running through October, during the team's critical training period.

Last fall, CODA said it would no longer remain the major sponsor of the two sports. However, president John Mills said keeping the facility open was necessary.

"We thought it was the fair thing to do out of the respect for the effort these athletes have put in for the past seven or eight years," Mills told the Canadian Press.

Welcome news for national team members who would have been forced to travel to Utah or Europe to train this summer, Read says.

"It's great news," he said. "Hopefully we can make sure they stay open for years and years."

That won't be as easy. The Calgary jumps need about $500,000 in upgrades -- the landing area must be extended because of the increased distance athletes can fly -- and annual maintenance costs exceed $200,000.

Ski Jumping Canada chairman Brent Morrice said the association will continue to look for ways to keep the jumps open for years.

New jumps for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver won't be complete until the fall of 2008.

"If we don't have a facility in Canada for the next two and a half years, we'll be in big trouble," Morrice said. "Plus, we need facilities to develop because those 13-year-olds who want to ski jump are out there."

The sports, especially ski jumping, have made great strides in the last couple of years. Having been built from scratch, the jump team finished seventh at the world junior championships last season and competitors such as Read, Greg Baxter, Dominik Bafia and Michael Nell all held their own against the world's best despite being in their teens.

"We're starting to reap the benefits of all that work. We're training Horst Bulaus, not another Eddie the Eagle," Morrice said. "That's why it's really critical to have this facility in Canada."


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