A nearly three-decade Victoria sporting run has ended with the announcement the 29th Victoria International Track Classic has been cancelled.
The event began as a lead-up for track and field athletes vying for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. It has been held annually every year since at Centennial Stadium and became a staple on the calendar for performers preparing for that year’s Summer Olympics, IAAF world championships or Commonwealth/Pan Am Games.
Organizers are hoping the meet can be revived for future years.
“It’s too bad and it’s sad . . . I was looking over the old press clippings today,” said Island track coaching veteran Brent Fougner, the meet’s booking director, who has been involved with the event since the beginning in several capacities.
Fougner said Sport Canada funding for this year’s Victoria meet was expected to be for $50,000, but that had not come through yet.
“It’s too late. I was getting requests and I couldn’t tell athletes to book flights [for the tentative June 8 date of the meet],” he said.
The news comes after the cancellation of the Edmonton meet announced in February. With Edmonton and Victoria gone, the 2017 National Track League is tentatively left with only three meets this year, including the venerable Harry Jerome meet in Burnaby, and others in Halifax and Guelph, Ont.
Ironically, the cancellations come at a time when track and field in Canada is riding a high following the breakout six-medal performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Fougner said the respite might be helpful.
“Maybe it’s the best thing because it gives us time now to revive it for next year, and make it more sustainable when we do, by looking for sponsorship resources other than Sport Canada,” he said.
Fougner said the budget for the Victoria meet was between $80,000 and $100,000. Last year’s meet attracted several 2016 Olympians, who tuned up at Centennial Stadium for the Summer Games, including Canadians such as Rio gold-medallist high-jumper Derek Drouin and fourth-place 800-metre runner Melissa Bishop.