Olympic Hopefuls Gather to Prepare for Vancouver 2010 at Olympic Excellence Series

Program Helps Canada’s Top Medal Prospects Develop Skills and Strategies for Success

In pursuit of the ultimate goal of owning the podium at 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Whistler and Richmond, the Canadian Olympic Committee hosted a group of 95 Olympic hopefuls and 93 coaches, team leaders and other support team members as part of a four-day Olympic Excellence Series (OES).

The initiative, first launched in 2005 to prepare the Canadian Olympic Team for the following year’s Winter Games in Turin, is designed to provide athletes, coaches and their support team with the practical skills and strategies necessary to prepare them to reach the podium at a specific Games. This year’s OES was the second in preparation for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and was held May 1-4 in Vancouver, Host City just nine months from now.

“The Canadian Olympic hopefuls here this weekend are primed and ready to succeed in 2010,” said Nathalie Lambert, Chef de Mission for Canada’s 2010 Olympic Team. “The atmosphere at OES was vibrant and exciting after a very strong winter season for our athletes with veterans delivering great results and others achieving major breakthroughs.”

In the recently-concluded 2008-2009 season, Canadian athletes made history in capturing more World Championship medals than any other country. Their 28 medals (six gold, nine silver, 13 bronze) topped both Germany and the United States, who had 27. (A 29th Canadian medal is attainable at the men’s World Hockey Championships underway now.) Canada’s speed skaters led the way with eight medals, along with four medals in short track, four in freestyle skiing, three apiece in snowboard and figure skating and two in alpine and ski cross and one in women’s hockey and curling.

Most of those who reached the World Championship podium were among the 95 athletes attending the Vancouver OES. These included world champions Alexandre Bilodeau and Ashleigh McIvor of freestyle skiing, Kristina Groves, Denny Morrison and Christine Nesbitt of speed skating, and Charles Hamelin of short track speed skating.

OES attendees were brought together with previous Olympic medallists, including Lambert, Catriona Le May Doan, Veronica Brenner, Sylvie Fréchette, Adam van Koeverden, Johann Koss, Marnie McBean and 2010 Assistant Chef de Mission Steve Podborski, who acted as mentors. One area of focus was the importance of devising an Olympic plan while also providing personal accounts of the strategies used to overcome obstacles and challenges en route to capturing an Olympic medal. Many of the attendees themselves are Olympic medallists as well, providing unique insight to those who may make their first Olympic appearance in 2010.

“The OES is a very targeted program that helps our top athletes prepare for the biggest test of their careers in a very bright spotlight,” said Chris Rudge, CEO and Secretary General of the COC. “The Games in Canada next year will bring unprecedented attention to our athletes, the Olympic Movement and Canada’s sports system overall, but we are well prepared. This season’s World Championship results show that the support behind our athletes and programs is strong, and I have no doubt that our team will achieve its best result ever at an Olympic Winter Games.”

All Canadians have a chance to be a part of the success and feel the Olympic spirit. They can help winter athletes prepare for the final journey to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games through a special campaign called “Get Behind Our Athletes.” Thousands of Canadians have already contributed to this national online fundraising campaign that encourages donations of $20.10. The goal, shared by the COC, VANOC, Own the Podium and the Canadian Olympic Foundation, is to raise at least $5 million toward training and equipment that will boost Team Canada’s chances of owning the podium. (For more, visit.)

Meanwhile, Olympic hopefuls are committed to rigorous training programs, many at 2010 Olympic venues, as well as attending events such as OES to prepare them for the world’s highest level of competition. The athlete portion of OES was led by Marnie McBean whose four Olympic rowing medals include three gold. Roger Archambault, COC manager of Olympic Preparation and himself an Olympic coach and team leader, led the portion for coaches, team leaders and high performance directors of each winter National Sport Federation, sessions that helped them anticipate the challenges to come next February.