Road To The Olympic Games


Funds from cancelled Training Ground directed towards Canada's future Olympians

Maintaining the talent pipeline, and not letting future Olympians get lost in the shuffle of the Tokyo Olympic extension is among the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Help for some sports has emerged from yet another virus-related cancellation.

RBC sending $230K to 9 sport federations for athletes’ expected peak in 4-8 years

The RBC Training Ground program has produced track cyclist Kelsey Mitchell, a former university soccer player who won Pan American Games gold last year. (Fernando Vergara/Associated Press File)

The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games to 2021 has the potential to squeeze Canadian athletes preparing for 2024.

Next year would have been Year 1 of the quadrennial for the Summer Games in Paris, had the COVID-19 pandemic not delayed the Tokyo Games.

Among the myriad challenges the virus has posed to Canadian amateur sport, one is maintaining the next-generation talent pipeline, and not letting future Olympians get lost in the shuffle of the Tokyo extension.

Help for some sports has emerged from yet another COVID-19 cancellation.

With recruitment of "diamonds in the rough" for Olympic sport halted because of the pandemic, money that would have been spent there is now going to the next generation of Canadian athletes.

RBC Training Ground tests athletes from age 14 to 25 across Canada in hopes of pairing them with an Olympic sport.

Canoe Kayak Canada to invest in provincial, club coaches

The five-year-old program has produced track cyclist Kelsey Mitchell, a former university soccer player from Sherwood Park, Alta., who won Pan American Games gold last year, as well as international decathlete Pierce LePage from Whitby, Ont.

Qualifying events, in which athletes are put through a series of speed, power, strength and endurance tests, halted in March because of the pandemic.

The remaining six qualifiers and the May 30 finale in Winnipeg were ultimately cancelled.

WATCH | 2019 RBC Training Ground National Final winners:

17-year-old Catherine Lizotte of Knowlton, Que., and 19-year-old Ian Holmquist of Peterborough, Ont., were named the first-ever RBC Training Ground National Final champions on Saturday. 2:38

RBC is funnelling $230,000 to the nine participating Training Ground sport federations for athletes whose peak performances are four to eight years away. Those athletes are known as NextGen.

Canoe Kayak Canada, for example, will use its grant of $30,000 to invest in provincial and club coaches.

They'll be invited to national camps early next year to coach athletes as well as receive mentorship from national-team coaches.

Grants to go toward online instruction

"It helps us to maintain the momentum of the 2024 group. It could have been a potential gap year," national paddling team manager Emily MacKeigan pointed out.  "It's no longer a quad. It's going to be a three-year cycle.

"This funding allows us a balance between supporting the Olympic team leading into the games, but also making sure our NextGen is getting the support they need as they're heading towards Paris."

WATCH | An interview with the winners:

CBC Sports' Anson Henry chats with RBC Training Ground National Final champions Catherine Lizotte and Ian Holmquist about their journey to the final and what their future looks like as they push to reach the Olympic games. 10:54

Grants between $10,000 and $30,000 will go toward such items as online instruction for Cycling Canada and strength-training innovation for Rowing Canada.

Winter sport is also included. Ski Jump Canada's grant is for suits, bindings and skis. Speed Skating Canada's funds will go towards a development camp in Calgary.

"We obviously couldn't operate RBC Training Ground virtually," RBC executive vice-president and chief marketing officer Mary DePaoli said. "There's an element of making sure participants can perform speed, strength and endurance. There's benchmark testing in front of NSOs.

"We determined the next best thing was to support the NSOs, who will in turn support the athletes. It's all about making sure we can equip young, emerging talent, that NextGen talent, to get the resources they need to get to the next level."

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