Jeff Pain spent his Olympic career sliding down sheets of ice with his body as close to the floor as possible. But now the former skeleton competitor will be helping Canada's women ski jumpers fly high at the Sochi winter games.
Ski Jumping Canada hired Jeff Pain as its high performance director Wednesday. With women ski jumpers winning a battle to be included in Sochi earlier this year, Pain will help shape Canada's first Olympic team in the sport as part of his duties.
With a budget of $300,000, the Olympic silver medallist who was famous for competing with the "angry beaver" helmet, said he will waste no time using his own experiences in "ramping up" every aspect of the program.
"It's just taking the next step of coming from an amateur sport into a professional sport and thinking of themselves as professional athletes now," said Pain. "Making that jump from 'this is a fun thing I can do' to 'this is my job."'
Pain knows it will not be easy to reach the Olympic podium in a sport dominated by Europeans. The current world champion is Austrian Daniela Iraschko, 27, and the runner up, a fresh-faced 16-year-old Coline Mattel of France.
Pain is placing a lot of faith in a youth movement, with Calgary teenagers Charlotte Mitchell and Taylor Henrich expected to do well.
"There's a huge window of opportunity," Pain said. "If we can keep these girls in the sport longer then we can really move the program forward."
In the past, many of the Canadian women ski jumpers would quit after high school since the sport wasn't a part of the Olympics.
Now, with ski jumping's inclusion on the Olympic roster, Pain hopes the sport will gain exposure and additional funding on top of the initial $300,000.
"If you look at my budget there's definitely more money needed," he said. "Much like in skeleton, we had some results, we had world champion Ryan Davenport, we had myself, then we got Olympic medals and it grew from there ... it's the chicken and egg thing."
Ken Read, Director of Winter Sport for Own the Podium, said that it's a relatively short time line and what appears to be a 'modest budget' to expect podium results, but medals are possible.
Using the success of the ski cross program as an example, he says that the first step is to identify podium potential, establish direction and build the resources from there.
With ski jumping and nordic combined comprising ten per cent of the overall medal count at the Olympics, the inclusion of the women's event may mean more than just a victory in equality. By putting these athletes on the Olympic podium, Canada's shot at topping the medal table at the Games increases substantially.
"We saw that there were 90 plus medals sitting there and Canada was winning none of them," Read said. "That represents nearly 40 per cent of the Olympic program. If we have an overall goal of trying to finish first we can't simply walk away from such a large group of sports.
"If we end up just focusing on what we call the 'low hanging fruit', the (sports) that we're very competitive in or it's going to be relatively easy to win medals, and shy away from ones that are hard, then we're going to end up finding ourselves very limited."
Winsport Canada has committed to upgrading facilities at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, including relocating the chairlift closerto the jump and adding another one, improving drainage issues, creating a women's locker room and a weight training area.
"Realistically we're only here to do one thing, be the best in the world. If our athletes are going to compete somewhere in the world and our facilities aren't the best in the world then we've let them down. Its just not fair," said Winsport President Dan O'Neil.
"We're here to help people win."