Ken Read Q & A

DARREN FRIESEN

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

Ken Read was once a Crazy Canuck, part of the heyday of Canada's skiing efforts. Now, as chief executive officer of Alpine Canada, he is doing his best to rekindle the skiing flame. Recently, he sat down with Sun Media's Darren Friesen.

Q: How happy are you with the success so far this season?

A: Any time the team starts this strong, especially at Lake Louise, it's an encouraging sign. The medals at home are good for the reason that they're in front of families and sponsors, something that our athletes are going to be faced with at the Olympics in 2010. More important though, we're pleased to see our athletes developing and that their focus to succeed is paying off and they're starting to deliver.

Q: The medal haul so far this season has come from the younger athletes on your team. Does this come as a surprise? Did we expect these results so quickly from our 22-yearold athletes?

A: No. But when we did our evaluations this year, we knew the potential was there and the results are confi rmation we're headed in the right direction. Are we where we need to be though? Certainly not. There's still lots of work to be done leading up to the Olympics and even the world championships at the end of the year. We saw (Manuel) Osborne-Paradis and John Kucera ski like veterans at Lake Louise and they deserve to be on the podium but there's always some surprises at the beginning of the year. For our veterans like Erik Guay and Thomas Grandi, they just have to be patient because it'll come. It's a long season and sometimes it takes a little time to get rolling. Our hope is they're fi ring through January and February.

Q: With the Canadians catching up now and the Americans doing so well, would you say there's a new level of parity that has come back to ski racing?

A: I think there's always been a strong level of parity since the 1980s but what really came out of the mid-80s was the Austrians being beaten big time. At that time, the Swiss were the standard, so the Austrians developed a new system where the support of the team was made very important. I like to make the parallel of women's hockey. The Canadians and the U.S. were close for a long time but now Canada is killing everybody. It's the same with the Austrians. In the mid-90s, they just outhustled everyone in every way but that became good for the rest of the world because it taught us what we needed to do to be successful. We all realized we had to step it up and now you've got lots of countries in the mix. The Americans have really stepped it up and they're defi nitely the No. 1 team right now. Also, Canada's emerging, the Italians, the Germans are coming back and Swiss and the French are coming back. As a result of Austrians dominance, there's more diversity.

Q: Does that make your job and the job of your coaches tougher because there's so many good teams?

A: No, because if one team is so powerful there's an imbalance of resources. Take for instance the super-G during the last few years. The Austrians dominated it so much that on race day a quarter of the racers were Austrian, so it was harder to get other athletes on the podium and it's diffi cult to break that cycle. But when there's more teams competing like now, there's a better chance to win and more teams are competitive. For us, we are getting there. We have momentum in the right direction. We have good coaches and good athletes in the system but we've got to continue to create a pull. We need veterans and young team members and more behind them. When (Ed) Podivinsky retired, there was no veterans to replace him and that was tough for our team. Now, we've got leaders in place so when Grandi retires we've got those veterans in place.

Q: Even with the continued success over the past few years, is there ever the concern that things will not go as planned for 2010?

A: That's always the possibility. We're constantly evaluating and trying to make those course corrections. A pretty precarious position is to only have one athlete in say women's slalom. If that athlete straddles the gate, the day's over for the nation. That's what we have with Britt Janyk right now. She's basically our only competitor going into the World Cup or the Olympicss, so if she's sick or misses a gate, it's over. The only way to have a strong medal tally is to have depth at all positions. So, the focus is always on depth and we're always course correcting to make sure we fill those roles.

Q: How are you filling those roles?

A: If you look at the last Olympics, there was kids in the early 20's winning medals, which means if that's the case for 2010 and beyond we need to develop our 17- and 18-year-olds. Our provincial teams are vital and are they getting all the tools they need? No. We have good collabortation between the national and provincial levels but are they getting the support the Austrians and Americans have at the same levels and the answer is no. The resources are going in but these kids are still largely dependent on the bank of mom and dad.

Q: But don't the results help out with getting more resources and money?

A: It's huge. We need the results to get the resources for sure. If you go back a few years, we were able to get more funding and resources to make sure racers like Kelly VanderBeek and Erik Guay got the support they needed and now we're seeing the results. No one should get complacent, there's tons more work to do. It's takes time and patience.


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