Saanich Commonwealth Place is well known for its recreational aspects. But it also has another significant profile as an Olympic medal factory.
Fifteen Olympians and Paralympians for Canada this summer at the 2012 London Games trained at the facility, including Olympic-medallist swimmers Ryan Cochrane and Richard Weinberger and Paralympic multi-medallist swimmer Brianna Nelson.
Funding was announced Monday to allow high-performance athletes continued access to the facility through the 2019-20 season, which includes the next two Summer Olympic and Paralympic cycles.
Of the total $1.5-million commitment to the Saanich Commonwealth Place Operating Trust Fund, $750,000 is from the B.C. government through the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. The other half comes from the federal Own the Podium program, national sport organizations and the aquatic community.
The original $4-million operating trust fund, to subsidize high-performance access to the facility and offset operating costs and fees for those user groups, was established in 1994 as a legacy of the Commonwealth Games by the federal and provincial governments along with Saanich and was expected to last through 2019. The original fund, however, will be depleted by 2014 because of the historically low interest rates. Without the additional funding, fees and rental rates would have at least doubled after 2014 for high-performance user groups.
The top-up was welcomed by elite and aspiring swimmers, divers, triathletes, water polo players, synchronized swimmers and their coaches. Among those on hand for the announcement were Cochrane and Simon Whitfield, who both springboarded from the Saanich facility to Olympic podiums.
This is fantastic news. We can train as much as we need without breaking the bank, said Tommy McLeod, head coach of the Victoria Boardworks diving club, which has produced several international divers.
This means top-level athletes wont have to cut down on workouts because they cant afford the cost. Now they can afford to get all the training they need. It really is amazing what has been accomplished in this pool, both by the people who come here to train and our home-made athletes who have gone onto the Olympics.
Among them is Victoria Boardworks diver and two-time Olympian Riley McCormick, who was coached by McLeod at Boardworks and also in the Olympics in London.
Its crazy the number of athletes produced at Saanich Place . . . and not just Olympians but high-level Olympians, said McCormick, 10-metre finalist in the London Games.
Its because of the support and funding we receive in Victoria.
World-class athletes and coaches need access to world-class facilities in order to reach the podium, said Mark Hahto, director of summer sports for Own the Podium.
This [funding] maintains the current level of access to the pool and thats really important, said Randy Bennett, coach of the Victoria Swim Academy, which produced seven swimmers for the London Olympics out of Saanich Place.
This is a good model and a good investment, added Bennett, who was also the Canadian Olympic head swim coach in London.
Its been a positive thing in the community and Victoria has benefited from this in many ways. Consider that Ryan learned to swim in that pool.
For his part, McLeod wasnt just gazing back to the likes of McCormick, Cochrane, Weinberger and Whitfield, but also looking forward.
We have kids training right now in the Saanich Place pool whose names the public doesnt even know yet but who may go onto future Olympics, said McLeod.
My work wont be done by 2020. Im looking beyond even that.
© Copyright 2013