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|"I'm excited to see how it all works out," says Kaya Turski about the formation of the Canadian slopestyle team.|
Following July's announcement of ski and snowboard slopestyle being added to the Winter Olympic program for Sochi in 2014, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association Wednesday announced the first official Canadian national slopestyle ski team.Until now, slopestyle has never been a nationally supported sport -- Canada is the first to put government dollars behind a slopestyle program.
The "A" team includes JF Houle, TJ Schiller, Alexis Godbout, Kaya Turski and Kim Lamarre. The "B" team is Ian Cosco, Charles Gagnier, Phil Casabon, Maude Raymond, and Jessica Warll. Athletes were chosen based on their Association of Freeskiing Professionals rankings and major contest results.
"It's basically one team with two groups," CFSA high-performance program director David Mirota said. " 'A' group is fully funded for training and competition travel. 'B' group is fully funded for training costs only, but this may change if we can access more funding and sponsorships in the near future. The services are the same for both -- coaching, sport science services, sport medicine services, etc."
According to Mirota, 90 percent of the Canadian slopestyle program is funded by Canada's Own the Podium (OTP), a government-funded program that launched in 2005 to finance Olympic athletes and their training.OTP will provide $20 million to winter sports for the 2011-12 season. Mirota would not say specifically how much was allocated for the slopestyle team.
The team will go to a trampoline training camp in September in Toronto, followed by training trips to New Zealand and Mammoth Mountain, Calif., in the fall.
"I think training will be different because most of us are used to being on our program and not being coached," Turski, a four-time Winter X event slopestyle gold medalist, said. "It feels great to have the support of medical staff, physios, and basically anything we need going into 2014. I think it's going to be a huge help both physically and emotionally."
Toben Sutherland, a former freestyle skier who competed in Winter X Games big air in 2002, was named head coach."It's a tight crew and we already have some of the world's best on board and now it's just a matter of getting to the next level," Sutherland said. "A lot of these athletes have never been a part of a team like this, but obviously they're very experienced in world class events, so now it's a matter of filling in the gaps and supporting them where we can."
The International Olympic Committee also approved ski halfpipe in April, and the Canadian halfpipe ski team was named in May.Sutherland said the Canadian slopestyle team and halfpipe team often will train and travel together.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, which identified its halfpipe team earlier this summer, has yet to give out a roster for its ski slopestyle team."At this time, we're still in the process of examining the new sports to determine appropriate athlete support using the strategic plan as a road map," said Margo Christiansen, communications director for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. "What we're really focused on now, though, is how pleased we are that the IOC has recognized the talent and dedication of the athletes in these growing sports and is giving them a chance to compete at the highest level in sport." Megan Michelson covers action sports for ESPN.com.