The Olympians are Coming!
Olympic medalist hopefuls from 14 countries will be getting ready for "Whistler" on Mount Washington.
Mount Washington Alpine Resort has hosted two International Paralympic Committee World Cup events in anticipation of hosting international teams prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Now the dress rehearsal is finished: it’s time for the real thing.
Between 250 and 300 athletes, coaches and supporting staff will converge on the Resort between February and March 2010, from 14 countries, and representing half a dozen different sports.
“This is actually more logistically challenging than an IPC World Cup, said Don Sharpe, Resort Director of Business Operations.
“Teams are all coming from different places, are different sizes, different disciplines (with different terrain needs) and have different hotel needs.”
Groups vary in size from three to 25 people at a time.
The first group arrives Jan. 29 and will leave around Feb. 10 for the biathlon events. Ski cross teams will visit the Resort from Feb. 9-15; cross-country from Feb. 7-13 and snowboard from Feb. 18-23.
The Paralympics take place at the end of February/beginning of March, so those teams will arrive later.
“It sounds big, but it’s spread out over enough time it’s not going to be a problem at all,” Sharpe said.
“The whole two or three weeks will be very exciting in the fact that so many international people will be here. It’s going to be spectacular.”
While other teams are going to Sun Peaks, Silver Star or Red Mountain in B.C.’s Interior, “we’re definitely getting the lion’s share of teams coming our way,” Sharpe said. “It’s because of the snow quality, altitude, temperature and the geography.”
Sweden was one of the first foreign countries to commit to bring some of its teams to Mount Washington; indeed have been bringing its cross-country team for spring training for a few years. Olle Danielsson, Head Coach of the Snowboard Team, is bringing a small contingent over, including medal hopeful Daniel Biveson.
Biveson will compete in the Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom at Cypress Mountain on Feb. 27. This will be Biveson’s third Olympic appearance. He’s known in Sweden as “TGB”, or “The Great Bive”, and is gunning for the top this year.
“We can get the best possible preparation there,” Danielsson said in an e-mail interview with the Marmot. “The weather is similar to Cypress, where we have the races. The slopes are great and the staff there are working really good to make us feel at home.”
Danielsson said his team includes physiotherapist Stefan Gustavsson as well as Biveson. The three of them will work on their final preparations for the Games while at Mount Washington.
“Main focus is to build up the confidence and get good training. There are for sure always things to work on, and the peak performance I hope will be on the 27th in Cypress,” Danielsson said.
Danielsson, Biveson and Gustavsson will attend the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics before going to California for “some days of surf and well-being”. They will spend five days at Mount Washington right before Biveson competes.
Tom Silletta, an Assistant Coach with the Canadian National Cross-Country Team, got an intimate glimpse of Mount Washington’s World Cup trails last March when he videotaped Canadian Paralympic team members competing in biathlon events.
He said compared to the course at Whistler’s Callaghan Valley, Mount Washington’s is more difficult. Whistler’s course has more flat surfaces, which allow athletes more time to recover. “Here, you’re either racing full out downhill or pushing it uphill.”
But even last year he assured Canadian teams would return for camps. “It’s a very technical course because there’s lots of sharp turns and steep hills.”
Seeing how popular Mount Washington has become with international teams is gratifying for Sharpe, who has worked hard since before Vancouver received the Winter Olympic bid to make this a reality. He was taking phone calls in October from Teams like the Netherlands and US Parallel Giant Slalom Teams, looking for space.
He actually had to close bookings for biathlon, turning away the Russian National Team, because there were no practice slots left.
“It’s going to be a mini-Olympic Athletes’ Village” at the Resort, he said. “Anybody who was here for the World Cups will remember seeing all the different jackets from different countries.
“I’m so pumped about it finally happening. It’s going to be cool. When it’s over, I think we’ll be able to sit back and see the amazing legacies left.”
Teams expected to train at Mount Washington Alpine Resort prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics include:
• Canada • USA
• Sweden • Germany
• France • Chinese
• Czech Republic
• Sweden • France
• Finland • France
• Sweden • Australia
• Canada • Sweden
• France (Men’s)
• Russian (Nordic Combined)
• Sweden • Switzerland
• German • USA
2010 Paralympic Teams
• Sweden • Norway
• Finland • Ukraine
• USA • Belarus