A needle in a haystack meets a diamond in the rough - so hopes the innovative RBC Training Ground campaign that is currently gaining momentum across the country. Now in its second year, the unique athlete recruitment program is searching far and wide for Canada's next great Olympian. Who will it be?
The search is on at 25 local qualifying events that run until the end of April 2017, and five regional finals throughout Canada-the last one will take place in October. The program is open to athletes aged 14-25, targeting both young athletes that are talented in their sport as well as older athletes with untapped potential to transfer to a new sport. Sports like bobsleigh, rowing, and athletics are filled with explosive athletes who come to these sports later in life - and RBC Training Ground knows there are hidden stars waiting to be found.
Athletes are evaluated on their speed, power, strength and endurance through several different tests. They are also aiming to achieve performance benchmarks set by National Sport Organizations (NSOs) scouting for talented athletes with Olympic medal potential.
RBC has partnered with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), the Canadian Olympic Foundation (COF), CBC Sports and the Canadian Olympic Paralympic Sport Institute Network (COPSIN) to run the program.
In Alberta, CSI Calgary has been engaged to plan the local qualifiers at five Alberta Sport Development Centres (ASDC) and the regional finals at CSI Calgary. Miranda Sallis, Manager of Performance Services at CSI Calgary, is responsible for planning and managing the events and is also sending CSI Calgary physiology staff to help evaluate the athletes. "It's a truly collaborative effort that requires a lot of coordination between the partners," she says.
Wendy Moar, ASDC NW Coordinator in Grande Prairie, is thrilled to host a local qualifier. "We are very excited to host the event and be a part of it," says Moar. "It's a huge role that our centre can fill - a big part of our purpose and mandate is specializing in providing sport science services that help athletes get to the next level and the RBC Training Ground Program aligns very well with that goal."
One athlete looking for a break is Jamie Strauss, a fifth-year volleyball player at Grande Prairie Regional College. Strauss, 23, is looking to make use of her athletic talents to make the jump from volleyball to a new sport like rowing. "I think it's an amazing opportunity for athletes like me," she says. "I'm excited to go out and see what I can do."
Up to 50 athletes from across the country could receive additional funding, mentorship, and support from RBC and the COF to fuel their passion and Olympic dreams. The top performer from each regional final will also receive the ultimate Olympic experience - a trip to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Being discovered is a thrilling prospect for any athlete, but more importantly what this program offers is another avenue within the sport system for them to reach their goals. "I see it as an opportunity for an athlete to work towards and make it their goal to be a part of the program," says Moar. "It opens up a lot of opportunities."