November 4, 2010
Preparations at the Whistler Sliding Centre (WSC) are well underway as the venue gears up to host the FIBT’s first bobsleigh and skeleton World Cup event of the season.
Most of the world’s best are expected to descend on Whistler in the near future to begin training for the meet, which takes place Nov. 25 to 27.
“We’re pretty excited to put this on,” said WSC director Paul Shore. “It’s the first World Cup at any 2010 Vancouver venue — whether Vancouver or Whistler, it’s the first — so it’s quite an honour to be leading off the bobsleigh and skeleton season and to be the first venue.”
Sliding got underway at the WSC on Tuesday (Nov. 2), and competitors for the FIBT event will be practicing at the facility as the World Cup opener approaches.
“The ice is all in and ready to go, so we’ll have Canadian athletes here training for the next couple of weeks, and then the international guys will start to arrive,” Shore said. “It’s definitely a great way (for the WSC) to start the season off.”
As far as preparing the track itself for competition, Shore said there isn’t too much of a difference for his staff compared to regular operations.
“We have to provide a high-quality product, whether it’s international athletes or junior development folks,” he said. “There is some temporary infrastructure and planning we have to do for the actual three days of racing. Those range from preparing to bring in a large number of spectators again… preparing for the TV trucks that roll in here… those sorts of things.
“It’s almost a very mini version of putting on an Olympic event.”
The track last hosted a World Cup event in 2009. Shore said this month’s competition will look much the same, hopefully in the number of spectators as well.
“Back then, we had 3,000 people per day come out and the event was sold out,” he recalled. “We’ll be offering the same number of tickets this year… and we’re doing everything we can with our partners like Tourism Whistler to try and see big crowds here again.”
Reigning Olympic skeleton champ Jon Montgomery will headline the Canadian contingent for the event, his portion of the meet going on the afternoon of Day 2. Lyndon Rush will race the two-man and four-man bobsleigh runs over the final two days.
All women’s action takes place on the opening day, with Mellisa Hollingsworth likely to be Canada’s best shot at a podium finish. Kallie Humphries and Helen Upperton, who finished one-two at the 2010 Games, will both be in the mix for two-woman bobsleigh.
Shore noted that the ongoing safety audit of the WSC will have no impact on planning for the World Cup, due in large part to the fact that Nodar Kumaritashvili’s fatal crash came while training for luge, which will not be staged at the event.
Tickets are on sale now for all three days online via www.whistler.com. In addition, guided tours of the facility during training runs are being offered to the public over the six days prior to the first day of racing.
“That’s a really unique opportunity to come when the venue isn’t very busy and watch these guys while they’re training with a guide, so it’s pretty cool,” Shore said. “They’ll get behind-the-scenes because there aren’t many people around, so you can get closer than when you have 3,000 intimate friends with you.
“It’s training and the coaches will be out walking around. It’s a little bit different than race day, but we put it on exactly for that reason.”
Numbers are limited for the training access tours, so reserve your spot soon by contacting the WSC at (604) 964-0400 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizers also still looking for more volunteers to fill various positions during the competition. For more info on how to get involved, contact email@example.com.
No more Pain
One slider who won’t be taking part in the World Cup kickoff is 2006 Olympic skeleton silver medalist Jeff Pain, who announced his retirement on Oct. 27, ending an illustrious, 15-year career.
A pioneer of the sport, Pain leaves competition with two World Championship gold medals and 22 podium finishes from 74 World Cup appearances.
“Today marks the end of an incredible journey and amazing chapter in my life. I feel I have accomplished a tremendous amount in my career both on and off the ice. It has been so enjoyable and I can hardly believe the time has come to say goodbye,” Pain said during a media conference in Calgary announcing his departure from skeleton.
“Our sport has come a long way since the days of traveling Europe, living in cars and hostels, and so have I,” added Pain. “I am leaving with great memories, friendships and experiences that I will hold close forever, but it is now time to move on to new challenges and opportunities.”
Pain and his wife Aly recently penned a book together titled The Business of Marriage and Medals, which details the effect of extended periods apart while he represented Canada abroad on the couple’s partnership and family life. Pain intends to further share his experiences as a husband and father overseas with Canadian military families.