Jumping with joy

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Thanks to a life preserver thrown by the province, Canada's ski jumping training centre will stay afloat.

Yesterday CODA announced the provincial government's Alberta Lottery Fund handed over a cheque for $600,000 to upgrade and refurbish Canada Olympic Park's run-down ski jumping infrastructure.

With that, CODA has committed to continue operating the facility until 2010 at a cost of $200,000 per year, meaning Canada's ski jumpers and nordic combined athletes have a home training base leading up to the all-important Vancouver Winter Games.

"This money will ensure we have athletes jumping off those jumps that they're building in Vancouver," said Brent Morrice, the president of Ski Jumping Canada, adding it's "questionable" if Canada would have been able to compete at ski jumping in Vancouver without the cash injection.

"What we would have had to do is travel and the nearest place (Salt Lake City) is 13 hours away, so it would be very difficult to train.

"Now the athletes can go to school here and they can train, while developing their skills towards 2010."

National team ski jumper Greg Baxter, a Calgarian, said being able to continue training at home is a huge boost in his preparations for both the 2006 Games and 2010.

"When we lost our funding, it was a big downer for everybody," said Baxter, who at 16 is one of the veteran jumpers.

"But now, it's just great that we'll have a home base until 2010."

Baxter is one of three Canadians, including Calgary's Stefan Read, 17, and Graeme Gorham, 17, who are already qualified for the upcoming Winter Olympics.

And the Canadians have slowly but steadily been making their way up the world ski jumping pecking order.

At the world junior championships in March, the young Canadians finished seventh overall in the team event, best ever for a Canuck squad.

Read finished 15th in individual competition, Canada's best result in 15 years.


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