Support the sliders

Dear Editor,

For many of us, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games will remain in our memory banks, as Whistler's finest moment. We were so proud to have the whole world focus for a few short weeks on our village nestled in this magnificent mountain environment.

Who will ever forget Jon Montgomery's walk through the Village following his gold medal skeleton performance? It is not just the memories of this brief period which endure, but we are also blessed with superb world class legacy facilities, including the Callahan Valley's Whistler Olympic Park, our Olympic Plaza with its outdoor stage and new skating facility, and our Olympic Sliding Centre, the fastest and arguably the most beautiful course in the world.

Prior to these games, few Canadians were avid followers of luge, bobsleigh, and skeleton competitions, and for many of us, the Olympics introduced us to these exciting sliding sports for the first time. In Europe, tens of thousands of spectators attend competitions in these sports, but here in Canada, due to our relatively new exposure to these winter sports, attendance is not comparable to that at European venues. This means that here you can get up front and close as a spectator, and enjoy the all the action.

Over the next few weeks, Bobsleigh Canada and the B.C. Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association will be managing several exciting events here that can be enjoyed by everyone. This week, the FIBT (Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing) World Cup races will be taking place, with on-course training during the week leading up to the races on Friday and Saturday (Nov. 23 and 24). The women's skeleton races will be taking place on Friday at a 10 a.m. followed by the two-man bobsleigh at 3 p.m., with the women's bobsleigh race scheduled for 6:30 p.m. that evening. On Saturday at 9 a.m. the four-man bobsleigh competition is to take place followed by the men's skeleton at 3 p.m.

On the week of Nov. 26 to Dec. 1, the InterContinental Cup Skeleton races are scheduled, to be followed by Whistler Sliding Centre's first North American Cup Races for skeleton with training days from Dec. 3 to 6 and race days from Dec. 7 to 9.

In addition to the major events scheduled, there are a number of little known stories to tell involving sliding sports. For example, following the Olympics, a number of people were motivated to attend bobsled pilot school here in order to become a participant in this exciting sport, and several of these individuals will be acting as volunteer course officials at this week's world cup races.

It is not all countries, particularly smaller countries, which can afford to build a sliding centre, such as Whistler's $110 million facility. In order to train for and compete in the Winter Olympics, their athletes must travel to Europe or to one of North America's four venues. An example is long time Whistler resident Martin White, who happens to have a New Zealand passport in addition to his Canadian passport, while conveniently living in Alta Vista, just five minutes from Whistler's Sliding Centre.

With his partner Jon Reid, a Kiwi citizen from Auckland, White is hoping to compete for New Zealand in the two-man bobsleigh event at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, to take place in Sochi Russia. Training vigorously throughout the year here in Whistler, White and his brakeman partner have recently competed in Park City Utah and Calgary.

Next year Whistler is to become a regular part of the North America's Cup bobsleigh circuit, and in anticipation of this, White and his partner will be racing in Calgary again in two weeks as part of this year'ss North American Cup series, with plans to participate in the final two races at Lake Placid in March. This winter season's race plans also include St. Mortiz Switzerland, and Sochi Russia. The goal for this season is to earn world cup ranking points in order to qualify for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

On Thursday evening (Nov. 22), Martin will be joined by his brakeman partner and his many Whistler friends for a benefit evening at Black's Pub from 6 to 10 p.m.. Everyone will be welcome, including the many friends who attended last year for a very casual and enjoyable evening. In order to help support our Canadian and New Zealand athletes, a variety of apparel embroidered with the New Zealand bobsleigh logo will be available for purchase.

Doug Garnett

Alta Vista, Whistler BC

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