Athlete Development Through the Canada Games: A National Sport Organization’s Perspective

One of the key aims of the Canada Games is to strengthen sport development in Canada.

National sport organizations see the Games as an opportunity to introduce young athletes and emerging coaches and officials to competitions in a multi-sport format. The atmosphere is similar to that of the Commonwealth Games, the Pan and Parapan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The figure skating competition at the Prince George 2015 Canada Winter Games is sure to capture many people’s attention because of the popularity of this sport. In addition, it may well be an indication of who will make up the Canadian senior figure skating team that will compete for a place on national, world and Olympic podiums in the future.

Patricia Chafe, Skate Canada’s Chief Sport Officer, shared some thoughts on the role the Canada Games play in athlete development.

How does Skate Canada view the Canada Games with respect to the development of your athletes, coaches and officials?

If we look at the skaters who competed at the Halifax 2011 Canada Winter Games, many of the athletes who represented their provinces then are now either on our senior national team or have represented Canada on the international junior circuit. While a lot can change in the life of a skater moving from novice at the Canada Games level to a senior competitor, it does give an indication of who we might see wearing the Canada jacket in a few years’ time.

In addition to providing athlete development, the Canada Games have also offered a tremendous opportunity for coaches and officials to experience a national competition in the unique atmosphere of a multi-sport games. It can be a really valuable experience for athletes to see the different dynamics and stresses that they might face before they walk into a World Championships or the frenzy of an Olympic Games.

Notable examples include

  • Emery Leger, the men’s winner in Saskatoon in 1971, who went on to have a very successful coaching career and is now the Skate Canada archivist.
  • Mike Slipchuk, who was at the top of the men’s podium in 1983 in Saguenay-Lac St. Jean, Quebec, is now our High Performance Director, mentoring our entire national team.

Can you provide some examples of skaters who have had success at the Canada Games and then went on to national and international success at the senior level?

The list of athletes who have competed since the inaugural Canada Games in 1967 reads almost like a “who’s who” of the best Canadian figure skaters.

  • Toller Cranston won at the first Canada Games in 1967 in Québec City as a relative unknown and then carved out his place in skating history.
  • Brian Orser won in Lethbridge, Alberta, in 1975, and went on to win the 1987 World Championships and two Olympic silver medals (1984 and 1988).
  • Emanuel Sandhu, who reached the top of the podium in 1995 in Grand Prairie, Alberta, became a 3-time Canadian champion and an Olympian (2006).

Two of our novice ice-dance teams from 2011 in Halifax, Nova Scotia—Madeline Edwards and ZhaoKai Pang, MacKenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen—both competed at the 2014 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships, with Maddy and ZhaoKai winning a bronze medal. Both teams qualified for the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final this year, and both teams will be heading to the World Junior Championships again this year.

For Skate Canada and the rest of Canada’s national sport organizations, the importance of the Canada Games’ role in athlete development—and, ultimately, the medal success of Canada’s national, world, Olympic and Paralympic teams is undeniable.

At the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, approximately 36 percent of athletes who represented Canada and 41 percent of our medallists were Canada Games alumni. At the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, 27 percent of our athletes and 31 percent of those who won medals had Canada Games experience.

The Government of Canada is proud to have been an important funding partner since their inception of the Canada Games given their long history of helping today’s champions become tomorrow’s heroes.

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