Last-place ski jumpers impress Calgary school
Students at Calgary's National Sport School are proud of their ski-jumping classmates at the Olympics, even though they failed to advance to the finals of the team ski-jumping competition.
The Canadian squad of 22-year-old Stefan Read, Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes, 18, Trevor Morrice, 18, and Eric Mitchell, 17, finished last in the 12-team first round with 294.6 points in Vancouver on Monday.
Read is a graduate of the National Sport School, an academic program for high-level athletes in Grades 9 to 12 who need flexible schedules to include training and competitions. The other three ski jumpers are still enrolled there.
"You see them and you get butterflies knowing they're actually at the Olympics," said Kristine Irwin, a synchronized swimmer and fellow student watching the event on TV. "I don't know it's kind of surreal."
"They're all so young and they also have so much school to do too that to just to be at the Olympics is an accomplishment in itself."
Austria went on to win gold in Monday's event, with Germany and Norway picking up silver and bronze.
Cam Hodgson, the school principal, said the Canadian foursome were up against more experienced competitors from around the world, who receive more financial and popular support than in their home countries.
"These kids — 17, 18, 22 — they're going to be competing against people from Europe, where ski jumping is a much more popular sport, where people do this for a living and they're in their 30s," he said.
'If it goes strong, then I'll hopefully go for two Olympics. If there's not much funding, then I might move or change sports.'— Sebastien Dandurand, student and ski jumper
"We'll always keep getting the results we're getting. In order for us to continue and climb higher in the world rankings, there needs to be a lot more experience and opportunity for these jumpers."
The Canadian ski jumpers train at Canada Olympic Park, the only facility in Canada other than Whistler that can accommodate the training. It costs about $300,000 annually to maintain the jump towers, officials say.
"If you were starting from scratch to build a world-class venue, I think that would be hard to justify, given the dollars per athlete," said Jim Younker, chief operating officer of WinSport Canada, which runs Canada Olympic Park. "But the cost of just maintaining it — I think it still does make sense."
Sebastien Dandurand, a ski jumper a few years younger than the members of the Olympic squad, hopes the support for his sport will improve.
"If it goes strong, then I'll hopefully go for two Olympics," Dandurand told CBC News. "If there's not much funding, then I might move or change sports."
With files from Zulekha Nathoo